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Pipe and Sewer Conference 2016

Benefits of a holistic water and drainage information system

Author: Malte Martin, Area Sales Director ME / PL / TR, Barthauer Software GmbH,

Nowadays the operators of fresh and sewage water networks are facing growing
operational tasks. The bad state of fresh water networks can result in an undersupply of
consumers or can have tremendous environmental and financial impacts. These
organizations find themselves in a conflict between providing the best performance of their
assets and economic pressure.
For accurate decisions during the operation and maintenance of these network assets a
comprehensive view on the assets is needed. Normally different departments are working
on the same assets according their operational tasks. These departments are supported
by different software applications based on different databases. This fragmented data
structure often leads to inefficient workflows and avoids adequate decision making.
The benefits of a holistic asset information management system can be summarized to the
following aspects. This holistic approach ensures access for all stakeholders within one
organization which facilitates the cooperation between the departments involved. All data
with their most recent modifications are available in real time for all parties involved. This
enhances the communication between all stakeholders. In addition all data are available to
conduct powerful analyses. The latter helps to derive better decisions for the operation and
maintenance of the different network assets.
While a complete system which covers all needs of the asset owner is still utopia, current
software applications are wide advanced. With BaSYS, which follows such a holistic
comprehensive approach, a software suite is available which covers nearly all aspects of
the lifecycle of a network asset. In combination with a variety of data exchange interfaces it
facilitates the internal and external data management and improves the processes of a
network owner.

1. Introduction
The operators of water or drainage networks find themselves in a conflict of obligations:
On the one hand they have to ensure proper running of networks to avoid any undersupply
of the customers or to protect the environment from hazards caused by the bad state of
the networks. On the other hand they are exposed to financial pressure from the owner of
the infrastructure assets.
Their duty is to mitigate the risk of a failure of the system (or single assets), to minimize
potential financial losses and to work more cost effectively. To meet these needs holistic
network management software packages are needed.

The information systems in water or drainage network running organizations are mostly
similar to or part of an asset management system. Ideally the asset management covers
all functions needed for a comprehensive lifecycle management of the assets. Practically
this is mostly not applicable because the workflow and business processes in one
organization are very heterogenic.

2. Accessibility
The asset management system must provide access to the data for all parties involved.
The data input and the usage of the data are not limited to one person or better one
department. It is desirable that every stakeholder has access to the database at any time
in one organization. The lifecycle of an infrastructure information system consists of
several stages which begins with the planning and design of the network, the asset
registry, the condition data assessment, the rehabilitation planning, operation and
maintenance and at the end the financial evaluation.
Normally all these different stages are done in different departments of an organization
with different software applications based on different databases although all parties are
working on the same assets. The asset data must be exchanged between the different
departments in this scenario which avoids efficient internal workflows. A centralized
database management advantages the synchronous use of all relevant asset data
(including geometries, attribute, operational and economic data) in every department
Another requirement is the data exchange with external contributors to the system. Parts
of the work are often outsourced to external contractors which need all relevant data
combined with the corresponding work orders or drawings. This can be achieved by a
transparent database model and well documented or standardized export and import
procedures which are accompanied by test routines to ensure the integrity of the datasets.
3. Functions needed for lifecycle management
The available asset management software systems often provide only functions for the
operation and maintenance of the assets and serves as the water or drainage network
registry while the tasks for an efficient lifecycle management goes beyond this limited
functionality. Ideally the system provides functions needed by the technical services like
planning and design tools, the condition assessment, tools for effective rehabilitation
planning and operational tasks like maintenance scheduling on a centralized database
The heterogeneity of the workflows and their underlying data sometimes requires the
usage of external software products (e. g. for hydraulic modelling or billing). Therefore the
software must provide the functionality to serve these programs with its data by exchange
procedures or synchronization tools.
To ensure the data integrity and data quality the asset management system should offer
plausibility controls, testing routines and visual data checks.
Besides these functions the network information system should be able to provide the
asset data for data mining procedures which can only archived through a consistent
database model and high level of data quality.
In addition the network information system should be platform independent as far as
possible. This enables the different user to use their software of choice to fulfil their duties.

Finally the software should be configurable and extendable easily so that it could be fitted
to the needs of the particular organization because the requirements differ from client to

4. Documentation and Standardization

The network running authorities must often provide a proper documentation of the works
done to keep the assets in peak condition or to follow legal requirements. They must proof
that they did all actions necessary to ensure a running infrastructure. In addition the
information system helps to enhance the decision making by more effective data analyzing
and reporting procedures.
The documentation of internal processes helps to comprehend every asset data entry or
decision and ensures knowledge transfer between the employees of a network running
organization. In addition communication between client and external service provider will
be simplified.
Through the use of standards (external or internal) the different workflows are specified
and clarified for any party involved. Especially the definition of these standards must be
done in close interaction between all parties involved and documented.
A common asset management system in network running organizations is often regarded
as a software system which enables the operators of water supply or disposal networks to
plan and document the operation and maintenance works. This approach is limited and
often more requirements for a successful management of the network assets are needed.
Therefore a water / drainage information system should offer technical functions and be
extendable as well.
The implementation, database population, the control and workflow definition is quite
complex and their documentation is huge work but critical for the successful management
in an organization.
In the end the key factor for an efficient and sustainable asset management is the tight
interaction between every party involved from the beginning of the implementation of the
information system. Infrastructure network asset management is not the duty of one
person or one department and the software should be able to serve every party with the
data or functions needed. Otherwise the information system is not able to cover the
requirements described and the acceptance inside and outside the organization will not
exceed a certain range. Finally this would avoid the goal of the implementation of an
information system: to derive value from the network assets.