When basic services go down, that can be a big problem particularly for those most vulnerable in society. A recent water main break in Woods Cross City, Utah forced sewage to back up into homes
“The water main break happened just after 5 a.m. but the city wasn’t notified until hours later at about 8 a.m… that there was an issue. By that time enough water had gotten out into the street. It infiltrated into the sewer system, [and] overloaded it,” said Woods Cross City Manager Gary Uresk.
DC Water averages between 400 and 500 water main breaks per year. These are of varying severity.
“During the busiest weeks, DC Water may have over 20 different water main breaks at one time.”
Easier and quicker ways to discover problems and take action by getting crews onto the scene is a constant challenge for water service providers. At WebMapSolutions we have been looking into how can we use geospatial technology to improve problem discovery and response times for repair crews?
3 New Apps Making Discovery & Fixing Water Leaks Easier
Walnut Cove, NC resident Joy Corns recently lost water to her home due to a burst water pipe:
“You really don’t realize how much you miss it until you don’t have it and when you don’t have it, it’s really inconvenient for you,” she said.
“”I’m on disability. My husband has been out of work due to an accident and we are very limited on our income. It has been very difficult, you can’t cook. You can’t do much of anything without water. I don’t know what we’re going to do about having supper tonight.”
For residents like Mrs Corns, there are currently 3 main ways she can report problems:
- Report a problem online
2. Call an emergency number
3. Tweet @xyzwater with a picture and location
Water Main Break & Repair Current Process
A typical water main break and repair workflow is described below:
- A leak is reported through a call, tweet or online form.
- Crews at the water utilities Command Center dispatch an investigator to the scene.
- The investigator determines the severity of the leak ie. whether the break can hold long enough to be scheduled for repair or if it is an emergency situation.
- The Command Center contacts the foreman of the crew on duty for emergency repairs to notify him of the newly identified break and its priority.
- The Command Center notifies a site marking service to send someone to the site to mark the utility lines.
- Repair crews arrive. Excavation begins. Valves are closed and water re-routed to minimize disruption.
- Crews inspect the pipe and plan the best repair or replacement. At times, breaks require unique parts in order to be repaired and crews must send for them.
- Once the repair is complete status and work done is reported back to the Command Center.
Improving Current Process
There are two main concerns which have been raised with the workflow above:
- Command Center Operators need to track problems reported from multiple sources
- There are multiple hand-off points Command Center to investigator to Command Center to foreman of the crew to marking service and repair crew. At any point in this sequence delays are possible.
We have been looking for new ways, using geospatial technology, for citizens to report problems and Command Center staff to coordinate repairs more efficiently and faster. A map can be used as the glue between citizens, Command Center staff and repair crews. There are 3 parts to the process:
- Citizens report on problems via tweets and text messages which are automatically mapped.
2. Command Center staff track the incoming issues, filter and assign work orders based on workflow: investigator, foreman of the crew, site markers, repair staff.
3. Reporting on work done – The web app and map can be viewed and edited online and offline. That means field staff can update work orders based on work completed simply and easily, regardless on wireless connectivity.
Geospatial technology and interactive maps can be used to simplify both communication, coordination and reporting of water leak problems. This can greatly speed up the process and reduce down-time and impact. Let us know if you have questions.