“Geo-engineering” System Empowers Hawaii Department of Water Supply
By Will Doak, Bentley Systems, and Craig Shimabukuro, Department of Water Supply, County of Hawaii
Almost two-thirds of the State of Hawaii`s land area is on the “Big Island” of Hawaii. On those 4,038 square miles lie white sandy beaches, tropical rain forests, rolling pasture lands and the majestic Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Also on the island are some 35,000 water customers who consume 7.4 million gallons daily. They are served by 27 water systems managed by the Department of Water Supply (DWS), County of Hawaii. The island`s varying geology, aging water supply systems, demand to accommodate urban growth and increasing regulatory requirements create a daunting management challenge. Facing reduced resources, the DWS turned to the use of automation for increased productivity at lower cost. An experienced team, consisting of the DWS, consultants and providers specified and implemented an automated geo-engineering system.
The term geo-engineering denotes a convergence of planning and engineering, as well as a collaborative work process. It reflects a recognition that, while planning and engineering may occupy separate boxes on an organizational chart, in the real world they are two sides of the same coin. The new capabilities benefit organizations involved in the development, maintenance and management of infrastructure, from roads and highways to energy distribution networks to wastewater and storm sewers to land ownership records. The geo-engineering integration platform that the Department chose is Bentley`s MicroStation GeoGraphics software.
Often when utility companies replace their paper-based record storage and retrieval systems with digital systems, the adoption of such a fundamentally new approach inspires companies to radically redesign their entire business systems. Before companies make such basic changes to the way they do business, however, they should determine whether the new system can support, much less enhance, their operations. The way to do this is to perform a careful feasibility study, which is what was done at DWS. Once a company decides a system is feasible, the inquiry turns to optimizing the system. When properly implemented, these new systems not only support day-to-day operations, but also empower organizations to be more efficient and flexible in a competitive environment. For these additional benefits, dynamic information systems need to be intuitive and take into account the various degrees of computer literacy of the workers. They must provide integrated solutions, not jumbles of incompatible software products that only “power users” can operate.
Companies must be sure that the new technology enables their workers, rather than arbitrarily changing their procedures. Dramatic improvements in critical measures of performance will result only when the systems accurately capture the organizations` work flows. A needs requirements study is, therefore, a second prerequisite to an effective information system. In this case, development and implementation based on a good feasibility study and careful needs assessment resulted in dramatic benefits for the DWS.
Benefits of the New System
Overall, the geo-engineering system is based on a philosophy of empowering the user. The system`s open architecture, and integration of Microsoft products lets the DWS create and change geographical user interface (GUI) screens, reports and databases readily. Also, it is easy to integrate the system`s output with Excel, Word, PowerPoint and similar office applications. As a result, for example, the DWS can create reports to regulatory agencies in the exact format the agencies require. This technology, integrated throughout the DWS, will result in increased productivity, cost savings, elimination of many systemic inefficiencies and enhancement of operations. Specifically:
The department can more quickly and more reliably respond to public requests and environmental problems.
Department engineers can more readily conduct water system analyses.
The department planner can conduct scenario planning and analyses.
An effective preventive maintenance approach can be established.
Data and products generated in-house will be produced faster, cheaper and more accurately.
Use of redundant products and duplicate databases will be eliminated.
The system will prevent irrevocable loss of the department`s database due to aging or natural disaster.
The institutional knowledge of the water system will survive the loss by retirement of essential personnel.
Most GISs are point solutions: They solve a specific problem in a particular department or operation. The problem with point solutions is that no subgroup within an organization operates as “an island alone unto itself.” Groups need to share information and are interdependent. One group`s final product is the beginning or an intermediate step for another group`s work. The DWS`s new geo-engineering system is an integrated solution. It takes into account the interdependencies and the flow of data between the DWS`s various branches–customer services, engineering, planning, water quality, operations and maintenance. The new system accommodates the entire information work flow, data requirements and products generated by the entire organization.
The benefits are enormous. The data that once was hand-carried between branches on pieces of paper is now instantly available to all personnel in the information chain. The time formerly wasted assembling data from multiple sources in different branches is saved. The automated system now provides project managers instantaneous access to these multiple data sources. The DWS now has one database into which the entire department will deposit all information and from which it will make all queries. Previously, employees kept information in a variety of unconnected and incompatible forms–spreadsheets, databases and word processing files, not to mention thousands of maps and other paper documents, scattered throughout the DWS.
Log screens for each branch show the up-to-the-minute status of all water service requests, field and plant work orders, engineering work orders, development requests and plan reviews of work done by consultants. These status screens of all work processed or in process will be accessible for easy retrieval by those given permission. This enables the DWS to respond to the public faster, more efficiently and more accurately. The manager is now able to see what his or her department is doing at all times.
The system uses graphical display when the mapping data is available electronically, but the nongraphical data is available. In other words, the electronic maps need not be finished before the system is fully functional. Once the database is imported, the DWS can begin to query the database and get reports. The graphics can be added at an appropriate pace as time allows.
Effective Monitoring of Water Quality
To meet Board of Health regulations, the DWS must continuously monitor water quality. Regulations require it to notify customers of contamination within 24 hours. When contamination is detected, a “tracer” capability in the system lets the DWS trace the water distribution system downstream to the nearest closed valves or ends of pipe. Also, the tracer program can identify all of the customers who are affected and print mailing labels. The tracer function can also be reversed to trace upstream and identify the source. Another use is to identify the number of customers who will be affected when repairs are required. It is easy to identify the valves to be closed to isolate the work area. The entire work-order process has also been captured and automated in the new system and will allow the DWS to accumulate the types of repairs and graphically locate them on the maps. The easily accessed historical data of all field work orders will help establish a sound and cost-effective preventive maintenance program. In the past, the DWS could only react to each problem reported. The historical data will allow it to see patterns of occurrences and make decisions and projections based on complete and accurate data. By acting in advance, the DWS hopes to save money and avoid major disruptions in service.
Better Customer Service
When customers request new service, customer service (CS) logs their address into the system and with the press of a button the land parcel is located and centered on the screen. CS can quickly determine whether service laterals and meters are already available. CS can also check a water-availability display to see if there are any restrictions in that area that need to be taken into account. Once the request for water service is cleared for the customer, an on-line field work order (FWO) is generated to request the installation of necessary system components to initiate water service to the customer. The FWO is electronically routed to the CS supervisor, who approves the FWO and automatically forwards it to the operations and maintenance branch for installation.
A “View Request for Water” display lets the DWS view the status of the request at all times, enabling it to respond to customer inquiries more efficiently. Managers can be more effective, too, since they have immediate access to the status of the installation. The system will allow the DWS to gather all of the necessary data for an identified area and download it to a file that will then be imported into KY-PIPE for analysis. The results will provide vital data to help planning and projections as new developments are considered.
The DWS`s new system was designed to accommodate future development. The use of ODBC, Microsoft`s DDE and DLL file formats and Bentley`s MDL programming language allows future expansion of the system to include SCADA operations (to provide real-time reporting of pumping operations), GPS capability and mobile computing. Also, the County of Hawaii can expand the system to include the operations of other county departments such as real property, transportation, planning, police, fire and wastewater. That will allow the County of Hawaii to optimize management of personnel and fiscal resources. Ultimately, the county can use the system for comprehensive planning for the operation, maintenance and future development of the Island of Hawaii.
The Hawaii Department of Water Supply bridges its utility operations through an engineering integration platform.
A Needs Requirements Analysis
The needs requirements analysis at the Department of Water Supply followed the system specification engineering methodology described in Software Specification and Design, A Disciplined Approach for Real-Time Systems by Ken Shumate and Marilyn Keller (John Wiley and Sons Inc., 1992).
The analysis proceeds in four steps:
1. In the system requirements analysis phase, the overall system requirements are determined. The capabilities and performance of a system sufficient to satisfy the organization`s operational needs and requirements are specified.
2. In the system design phase, the overall system architecture is determined. This architecture provides not only for the organization`s hardware and software, but also for its personnel and the communications among them, to satisfy the system`s essential requirements.
3. The software requirements analysis specifies the functionality of–or what problem is to be solved by–each software subsystem and how each subsystem interfaces with the other parts of the system. The software specification is the product of this phase.
4. The software design phase addresses the transition from software requirements to the design of the software components that satisfy those requirements.