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5 Water Utility Challenges Transformed by the Utility Network

As someone who works at a water utility, you deal with complex challenges every day, like rising demand, water shortages, aging infrastructure and evolving technology. How can you succeed?

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Water utilities play a crucial role in providing essential resources to communities, yet they face complex challenges due to urban density, climate change and aging infrastructure.  The ArcGIS Utility Network (UN) is a powerful tool that not only helps utilities address their challenges but propels them into a new era of efficiency, resiliency and intelligent decision-making.  The UN significantly enhances water utilities’ geographic information system (GIS) capabilities, enabling a comprehensive approach to network management and optimization.

Explore five fundamental challenges faced by water utilities and the corresponding solutions offered by the UN.

1. Navigating Asset Management Complexity

Managing the intricate web of assets within water utilities has become an increasingly complex task. As urban areas grow denser, water consumption rises and infrastructure ages, the demand for efficient asset management intensifies. The labyrinth of pipes, valves, pumps and meters forming these utilities requires precise oversight, intricate maintenance strategies and effective lifecycle analyses. In response to this complexity, the UN emerges as a powerful solution. By offering a centralized system that tracks, analyzes and optimizes these multifaceted assets, the UN enables water utilities to efficiently trace the intricacies of their networks, ensuring an understanding of where assets are located and their optimal functionality and performance.

Water droplet indicating how US utilities collectively manage over US$1.25 trillion in water, wastewater and stormwater assets.

US utilities collectively manage over US$1.25 trillion in water, wastewater and stormwater assets. Operators need to grasp not only asset locations but also their interconnections for effective infrastructure management. US dollars Source: Bluefield Research

2. Enhancing Network Analysis and Optimization

Water distribution networks are intricate, with a myriad of interdependencies that have grown more pronounced in the face of urban expansion and climate change. As the effects of climate change intensify, water utilities find themselves tasked with monitoring stormwater and water levels more closely than ever before. This urgency amplifies the need for refined analysis across expansive networks. The UN steps up with advanced analysis capabilities, allowing utilities to model hydraulic behavior, simulate scenarios and optimize network design. By efficiently managing water flow, pressure, and energy conservation, utilities can curtail water loss, fine-tune pumping operations and ultimately curb overall operational costs.

Dashboard and map showing water loss in each zone. Cost of water loss is US$2,520.55 per day.

The White House Utility District dashboard visualizes district metered area (DMA) zones, water loss in each zone, and cost of water loss in US dollars.

3. Boosting Real-Time Monitoring and Incident Response:

Timely response to network incidents, such as leaks, bursts, or pressure fluctuations, is critical to service levels, distribution and management of revenue loss. The UN enables real-time monitoring of network conditions, seamlessly integrating data from sensors and field operations. This empowers utilities to detect anomalies, proactively identify potential issues and quickly respond to incidents. By minimizing service disruptions and mitigating water loss, the UN becomes an indispensable tool for safeguarding uninterrupted water supply. This capability goes beyond mere technical efficiency; it encompasses the reliability and resilience of critical water services that communities depend on.

In the field with a mobile device, at the desktop and on the web.

Asset information in the UN can be accessed and updated from any device, anywhere, anytime.

4. Informing Data-Driven Decision Making:

In the ever-evolving landscape of water utilities, the ability to make informed decisions is essential. Water utilities operate in a dynamic environment where factors like population growth, weather patterns and infrastructure wear and tear influence their operations. The UN integrates geospatial data with other operational data sources, enabling utilities to visualize and analyze data in a spatial context. This empowers decision-makers to analyze patterns, identify trends and forecast potential issues with accuracy. As a result, utilities can use data-driven precision to strategically allocate resources, plan infrastructure investments, prioritize maintenance and optimize service delivery.

Person driving a car with a live map and route on a tablet.

Field apps transform disparate field activities and processes into a unified workflow in real-time for optimal decision-making.

5. Enriching Customer Service:

Meeting customer expectations is paramount for water utilities. Timely communication is key, and the UN facilitates the seamless dissemination of crucial information. Outage notifications, water quality reports and service updates can be promptly shared, enhancing transparency and building trust. Additionally, the UN’s capabilities extend to transforming billing processes and customer support. By streamlining these functions, water utilities can address customer inquiries efficiently, minimize disputes and enhance overall service quality. The result is a heightened level of customer satisfaction, ensuring that water utilities not only meet but exceed the expectations of the communities they serve.

Customer service image with interconnected people and functions.

Water utilities aim to exceed customer expectations through UN-facilitated communication and streamlined processes, enhancing satisfaction.

Implementing the Esri Utility Network brings concrete benefits to water utilities. This solution helps utilities efficiently manage networks, make informed decisions, foster collaboration and streamline operations. For instance, San Juan Water District (SJWD) faced legacy GIS challenges, causing bottlenecks and data silos. SJWD modernized operations with real-time network analysis on mobile devices, eliminating paper maps and enhancing inter-departmental communication through Esri's ArcGIS platform. This exemplifies how the UN's web-based architecture transforms operations, preparing utilities for future demands. Overall, the UN enhances efficiency, productivity and performance, allowing water utilities to provide effective water services to their communities.

What are your water utility challenges?

About the Author

Rosalyn Laiken is a Marketing Specialist for Esri Canada. She focuses on industry solutions marketing and is passionate about exploring the intersection of technology with people. She has two decades of international marketing experience in IT marketing, as well as C-level marketing consulting. Rosalyn holds a bachelor of commerce majoring in marketing from Carleton University. She lived in South Korea and Australia for eight years, and loves using real-time spatial data while paragliding. When she is not glued to her computer, Rosalyn enjoys yoga, travelling, live music and exploring new cuisines.

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