By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.

How Sewer System Capacity Planner Resolves Utilities’ Infrastructure Woes

June 18, 2024
Min Read
Woman across the table from 2 men talking

As per an article by IOW, about three million people move to cities every week. This trend was predicted to continue even in the future. However, since the pandemic, we’re witnessing a notable demographic shift toward smaller towns across the country, changing work and life, while greatly affecting the infrastructure in place, such as sewer systems.

Problems Resulting from the Demographic Shift

The resulting demographic shift has a direct impact on capacity planning for sewer systems. The increase in population leads to increased usage of the wastewater network and hence requires proactive assessment of the system’s ability to ensure good levels of service and permitting compliance.

Challenges for Utilities

Operational Adjustments

Water utilities need to adapt to constantly evolving climate regulations. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated significant operational adjustments. Climate change poses additional risks, such as increased flooding, asset failures due to aging infrastructure, and unique challenges inherent in managing distributed collection systems with diverse assets such as pipes, pump stations, sensors, and flow meters. These are further compounded by the aforementioned demographic shift.

Workforce Challenges

Utilities grapple with impending workforce shortages, struggling to capture and retain institutional knowledge held by experienced operators. The EPA recently released a statistic indicating that approximately one-third of the water utility workforce is nearing retirement age, with the average age being 47 years old. This trend suggests that more retirements are expected within the next 5 to 10 years. This is further exacerbated by the fact that regulations are becoming more stringent requiring utilities to do more with less. Consequently, it’s imperative that utilities shift focus from relying solely on institutional knowledge to adopting data-driven expertise that can be effectively transmitted to new hires over the coming decades.

Capacity Evaluation/Assessment and Planning

Increased population translates to higher volumes flowing through a city’s systems, particularly during storms, leading to adverse effects such as combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), as well as sewer backups. However, these issues extend beyond mere sewer capacity concerns, as shown in the following infographic.

The Solution for Sewer System Capacity Challenges

Improving Planning and Management of Population Growth and Shift

One of the most important things that can be done to mitigate negative impacts on sewer systems is to improve the way cities are planned and managed. This includes everything from better land-use planning to improved waste management and transportation systems.

Leveraging Models for Optimizing Operations

Considering that we invest significant effort and resources into model development, calibration, data collection and validation of models such as hydraulic and process models for wastewater conveyance and treatment, we should leverage them, not only for long-term planning, but also for day-to-day decision-making and operations.

Leveraging the utility’s investments such as data and models is an opportunity, which should not be missed, to navigate challenges such as stringent regulations, public perception of performance, staffing and other operations issues.

Resolving Sewer System Capacity Challenges with waterCAST

Traditionally, utilities have approached sewer capacity assessment in two main ways. One method involves outsourcing to large, albeit sometimes costly, engineering firms. Alternatively, some utilities rely on institutional knowledge, which can become less dependable as experienced employees retire and the system evolves.

To address these challenges, Trinnex has developed a sewer system capacity assessment tool called Capacity Planner in waterCAST designed to enhance the use of existing models. This tool simplifies the sewer capacity assessment and planning process by leveraging your established model. By inputting basic permit information, waterCAST rapidly evaluates sewer system capacity, identifying areas suitable for new development. This approach maximizes the value of your model investment without resorting to costly outsourcing or relying on potentially outdated institutional knowledge.

waterCAST also resolves data fragmentation by consolidating disparate sources—SCADA systems, IoT cloud data, weather forecasts, GIS asset data, hydraulic models, CMMS maintenance records, and field data—into a single, secure platform. Equipped with cybersecurity measures, analytics, AI, and visualization tools, this sewer system capacity assessment and planning tool empowers utilities to automate compliance reporting, proactively address operational issues (for e.g., sensor maintenance), and utilize expensive models efficiently for planning and analysis. Also, digital twins, enabled by waterCAST, enhance collection system operations, supporting proactive maintenance and optimizing program effectiveness through data-driven insights.

waterCAST also serves as a repository for critical information, ensuring accessibility for future employees and enabling ongoing scenario analyses as design standards evolve. This adaptability is crucial given the changing nature of storm patterns over time. By simply logging in through a browser, authorized users can initiate and manage capacity evaluations seamlessly. This modern approach simplifies processes, promotes efficiency, and streamlines sewer system capacity evaluations by leveraging existing models and providing intuitive tools for informed decision-making and reporting, without requiring complex software installations on individual computers.

Using waterCAST Capacity Planner for Sewer Systems

  1. Input permit information: With our scenario creator, utility staff can easily conduct a sewer system’s capacity evaluation and plan for future scenarios using permit request details.
  2. Identify capacity bottlenecks: Staff can visualize the results of your sewer system capacity assessment on our map page to swiftly pinpoint capacity bottlenecks in your collection system.
  3. Streamline approval processes: The constant stream of developer requests for wastewater capacity can strain time and budgets. The waterCAST Capacity Planner offers an efficient solution to review requests, conduct sewer system capacity assessments, and make data-driven decisions promptly.

Key features of the tool:

  • Utilizes basic permit request data to run comprehensive capacity evaluations
  • Accesses hydraulic models without requiring modeling expertise
  • Plans ahead by selecting from various model scenarios and design storms
  • Saves costs and time by eliminating the need for modelers to run permit requests

Looking Ahead

waterCAST is continuously evolving. While it currently leverages hydraulic modeling and GIS data without inherent AI features, future enhancements may include advanced learning components to optimize system performance based on historical and real-time data.

If you would like to learn more about digital tools in the water sector, or gauge your progress in the digital water journey, do connect with us. You can watch the complete webinar here, and also reach out to Varun (Trinnex product lead and data scientist) or Isaac (Trinnex solutions engineer), who were speakers for the webinar.

We are committed to facilitating your digital transformation journey, and look forward to being your trusted partner in your progress.

Share post on
Written by
Varun Srinivasan, PhD
Product Lead and Data Scientist
Varun has 10+ years of experience in the water industry and is passionate about crafting digital solutions that solve clients' challenges.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Insights from our experts can be yours, totally free. Join our monthly newsletter with one click.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.