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Modeling Your Water Distribution System

July 13, 2017

By Justin Petersen, PE, PMP – Associate, Senior Project Engineer

Some municipal employees have worked for decades in their city and have a wealth of knowledge about its water distribution system. These employees are bound to retire at some point. How is knowledge from seasoned staff passed along to future staff? Clark Engineering can work with clients to develop a water model for this purpose and more.

A water model is a computer-based map that is capable of analyzing the water distribution system. A water model allows us to quickly simulate the distribution system to better serve our clients, regardless of the size of the water distribution system. For instance, if a large industry approached a city about water service, a water model would be able to first tell if the city can handle the demand and second help determine the improvements needed for the increased demand.

Some additional advantages of having Clark Engineering develop a water model for communities include:

  • Plan for future developments
  • Plan for infrastructure improvements
  • Assist in finding leaks to increase revenue
  • Assist in finding closed valves
  • Explore effects of operational changes prior to implementation
  • Review fire flow capabilities for public safety
  • Review storage and pumping operation to improve efficiency and redundancy
  • Determine water age/water quality in the system to improve water quality
  • Explore energy management strategies to reduce costs
  • Explore transients to reduce breakages caused by transients/minimize surges
  • Review low pressure areas and find ways to improve the system

Calibrating the Water Model

A key component of Clark’s process to develop a water model is calibrating the water model. Our staff has found closed valves, identified areas for fire hydrant maintenance, noted opportunities for system operational improvement, and discovered the need for air release valves to maximize the full capacity of a large water distribution line. A water model without calibration is like a car without a speedometer.

We encourage clients to maximize the water model by utilizing features to develop an asset management database. This database can include information about the water distribution system that will help city leaders make decisions about funding and maintenance.

Some things to incorporate in the asset management database may include:

  • Services: location, size, type, age, maintenance
  • Curb stops: location, size, type, age, maintenance
  • Meters: location, size, type, age, maintenance/flushing schedule
  • Water valves: location, size, type, age, maintenance/exercise schedule
  • Fire hydrants: location, size, type, age, maintenance/flushing schedule
  • Locations of leaks
  • Pictures of each fitting, hydrant, water valve, etc.
  • Can include aerials, lot/pin locations, etc. to tie into locations in the field
  • Can tie water model to billing data for improved leak detection

Retaining Institutional Knowledge Pays Dividends

A water model is a useful tool that can manage the immense amount of knowledge from employees, maps, SCADA, billing, and other sources. The development of a water model is an investment by community leaders that will pay dividends in the future.