The Importance of GIS in Water Network Management Projects

Why Going Spatial Matters

GIS is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for water management systems in this day and age. It is a necessity. 

Data on assets such as pipes, valves, hydrants, and meters live in tables containing gigabytes’ worth of information. A Geographic Information System (GIS) adds spatiality to this data, making it more valuable and accessible to water utility companies, their partners, and technicians on the field. 

For instance, planning a water loss management or network rehabilitation project requires a bird’s eye view of your assets. A spreadsheet can sort pipelines according to age, repair history, priority level, and many other categories. However, you get further insight by seeing the information on an interactive map.

According to the Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI), GIS benefits organisations through “improved communication and efficiency as well as better management and decision making.” Indeed, GIS products can help water industry professionals plan their operations better. They can address issues more efficiently, reduce operational costs and energy consumption, and minimise losses due to delayed response.

Read more: Water Network Leak Detection: What’s Involved?

Harnessing the advantages of location intelligence

Whenever you ask a “where” question, GIS can help. Where can we find the most critical assets? Where are hazards and constraints located within the distribution network? What are the risks, and where are they? These and other related enquiries are all geospatial.

GIS apps allow you to pull different types of locational data from various sources to address these questions. You can georeference plans and record drawings to convert them into digital versions of your pipelines, valves, hydrants, and water network features. Similarly, you can overlay them with cadastral maps, road networks, topography, land use, and spatial data downloadable from government websites.

In some instances, locating assets is a challenge due to a lack of accurate drawings, the nature of the terrain, or the age of the water supply network. GIS can aid you in narrowing down your search. For example, examining historical satellite imagery can provide leads about the pipe alignment. With luck, you can even find an aerial photo of the pipeline during construction and mark the coordinates on your map.

Accurate maps are essential to ensure field work is completed with maximum accuracy and minimal disruption if excavation is required. Using various GIS-enhanced methods and Global Positioning System (GPS) tools, one can pinpoint a leak’s location on the map with a sub-meter accuracy or even better. 

Mobile GIS for fieldwork

Viewing and updating water network information is equally crucial on the field as on a desktop. Field technicians now use GIS-enabled apps on their phones and tablets to plan inspection routes and record their findings for the day.

These mobile field apps allow field technicians access to information on the assets they’re interacting with on-site. Likewise, they can submit reports, attach photos, and even update maps remotely.

Mobile GIS applications can be customised to suit the task at hand, from acoustic leak detection to exercising water valves based on project goals and objectives. It also reduces the chance of data losses and human error when recording data, compared to writing everything down with a pen and clipboard. Mobile GIS and spatial data capture solutions are beneficial to technicians who perform active leak detection every day.

The future for GIS and fieldwork is shaping to be interesting as well. In the coming years, Augmented Reality (AR) will be used in the field to visualise complex networks of pipes with varying diameters and depths from the ground.

Read more: 7 Smart Water Trends in Australia and New Zealand in 2021

Real-time reporting and water network management

A water utility GIS can also be integrated into various leak detection and pressure monitoring projects. When smart water meters or acoustic sensors detect anomalies, these can trigger alerts and alarms. With geographic data available on-demand, water companies can immediately locate and mitigate the problem leading to better customer service outcomes.

Additionally, GIS can communicate with Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These allow rapid and remote data collection for most water loss management projects such data-enabled equipment aids in building smart water networks and promotes the reliability and longevity of water utilities. 

The advantage of these tools is that they are scalable based on the nature and scope of an operation. Water companies can create map dashboards to monitor their hydrophones while integrating them into their Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. These solutions can be used to inspect a single short pipeline or manage dozens of metered water distribution zones simultaneously.

GIS and Water Network Management Services at Aqua Analytics

At Aqua Analytics, we assist water infrastructure owners with some of their greatest challenges to ensure safe, clean and reliable services can be provided for future decades. We support utilities with operational success in the areas of water loss management, active leakage control and all aspects of technology-driven smart water projects.

Our highly-skilled field teams use cutting-edge technologies and GIS tools to deliver accurate and timely field intelligence. All our GIS applications and reporting systems can be customised to client requirements and their overall project goals and objectives.

Please call us at 1800 264 262 (AU) or 0800 345 697 (NZ) or visit our contact page for more information. 

Need help with smart water?

To ensure success with your smart water programs, you need an interface between your digital and physical assets that you can trust.

Contact Us

Trusted by leading water utilities.

For over two decades, our team has been trusted by the regions leading water utilities to deliver results.

sydney water logo
yarra valley water logo
watercare auckland logo
hunter water
water corp
pw northern territory logo
sa water logo
veolia logo

Subscribe to our regular newsletter.

Get regular updates about smart water solutions, case studies and upcoming events.