Founded in 1992, and headquartered in San Bernardino, California, Nobel Water Systems delivers geospatial and visualization solutions that help utilities and water districts efficiently manage their infrastructures. Digi Remote Manager® — the command center of deployed networks — and Digi Connect® Sensor+ play a key role in its flagship solution that enables customers to centrally orchestrate and monitor water systems, prevent costly leaks and achieve a compelling ROI.
As states and regions struggle with water-supply issues, government regulators are tightening their controls on how districts consume water and how much is lost to avoidable waste. That’s particularly true in California where rising populations, a warmer climate, and wildfires have collectively created difficult management challenges.
Tanmay Thakur, lead engineer for Nobel Water Systems, shared why water leaks are a primary source of concern. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average water district loses 16 percent of its water to leaks in its system — and 75 percent of that loss is recoverable. 1“It’s increasingly important for water districts to monitor their infrastructure in real time, detect leaks, and promptly remedy them,” he said. “States like California now conduct thorough audits and the districts must collect and report on data for dozens of parameters. If the district falls short of mandated goals, they can face consequences.”
Naturally, most water mains — and even lateral lines — are buried underground, making leak-detection a difficult proposition. “A customer might notice a drop in water pressure, and that’s the first indication we have a problem,” Thakur said. “Then it can take several days before a field crew can get to the location and use ultrasonic devices to pinpoint the location and begin repairs.”
In response, Nobel developed GeoViewer, a cloud-based GIS/IoT asset management system that gives water districts access to real-time data. The easy-to-use application synchronizes real-time GIS data, ticket information, reports, and other critical information between remote field sites and a central office. GeoViewer also provides access to all property data within a district, including owner information, address, parcel number, property characteristics, and maintenance history.
One of the keys to that real-time data is Digi Remote Manager® (Digi RM), enabling Nobel’s customers to monitor large numbers of sensors across its water system and easily integrate data into GeoViewer. Digi Connect Sensor+, a fully integrated, battery-powered cellular gateway with I/O for connecting to a wide range of external sensors. Digi Connect Sensor+ enables remote monitoring and diagnostics in places where power is not easily available, and its easy installation, reliability and low data usage make remote monitoring possible in areas where it was previously cost prohibitive.
“We’re very happy with Digi Connect Sensor+,” said Aretha Samuel, Nobel Systems’ CTO. “The device itself has an excellent airtight, watertight enclosure with a proper antenna. Plus, it’s very easy to use Digi Remote Manager to set all the parameters for the sensor and test to ensure it is operating properly and has sufficient battery life. We can install and provision the solution in just 15 minutes.”
“By attaching pressure sensors to the water mains, lateral lines, and pressure-reducing stations, we can see if there are leaks and respond much faster,” said Thakur. “Digi Connect Sensor+ transmits that data to the district’s central administration console, so that managers can see the status of their entire water infrastructure in real time. If the sensor detects a drop in pressure that lasts more than one minute, GeoViewer sends an alert to the user’s phone. The water manager will know about every meaningful leak in less than 15 minutes.” That data is also stored in a secure portal to assure customers with concerns about data breaches.
Nobel estimates that its customers can save up to 20 percent annually on their water bills, providing a strong business case for the solution. But public safety is also an issue. “Wildfires are a recurring issue in some districts,” said Thakur. “If the pressure is low, the risk is high. And our data can also show the unbilled, unmetered water consumption associated with putting out those fires.”
The state of California also grades each water district, and a remote monitoring system pushes those grades much higher. Thakur explained that the state likes to see remote monitoring — much more than a simple SCADA system — so customers have a chance to receive better grades on their performance.
“With real-time data updates through Digi Connect Sensor+, our GeoViewer really provides water districts with much greater control of their water infrastructure to increase service and satisfaction, while lowering the costs and risks of leaks.”
Ultimately, it's win-win-win for the water districts, the state, and the environment.
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