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Technology Helps Miami Solve Water and Sanitary Sewer Issues

Solutions Set the Standard for Future of Water and Sanitary Sewer Systems Worldwide by M. K. Vander Werff Ms. Vander Werff has reported on business, economic, and technology issues for Nation’s Business, Entrepreneur, and a variety of trade journals.


iami’s most notable natural resource is also its most vulnerable, and ironically, its most vicious. From the beauty of Biscayne Bay, the Everglades, and the Atlantic Ocean to the tyranny of tropical storms and hurricanes, water is Miami’s blessing and curse. With a land elevation at its highest peak just 40 feet above sea level — and conversely, a groundwater table only 3 feet to 6 feet below the earth’s surface — the 60 inches of rain that fall each year on Florida’s southern tip are absorbed in the flat, sandy earth like a sponge sopping up a giant spill. During torrential rains water is even sucked through cracks into some of the sanitary sewer pipes that form an underground grid throughout Metropolitan Dade County. The result: sanitary sewer overflows caused by pipe and pump-station failures. Several pipe failures a few years ago actually flooded downtown intersections and spilled raw sewage into the Miami River. In the aftermath, Metro-Dade County signed consent decrees with the Environmental Protection Agency and settlement agreements with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection mandating comprehensive sanitary sewer system rehabilitation. continued on next page

“In a teaming effort with Woolpert, a U.S.-based consulting-engineering and Geographic Information System (GIS) firm specializing in water, sanitary sewer and stormwater infrastructure management, MDWASD is developing a comprehensive utilities information management system using unprecedented Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) and GIS methods.”

Water/Sanitary Sewer


he Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (MDWASD) is now spending $1.1 billion to upgrade the largest water and wastewater system in the Southeast — a sprawling 414 square-mile utility created in 1973 from 30 smaller ones. The program, about two-thirds the way to a 2002 completion deadline, includes not only the sanitary sewer system rehabilitation but also major forcemain and pump-station capacity improvements; upgrading and expansion of three wastewater treatment plants; and studies of how the department manages and operates the utility. To date, MDWASD has completed or has underway more than $600 million worth of the improvements. It has met or beat the scheduled delivery date for all work activities (more than 500 of the 1,000 mandated milestones) and has not paid any penalties for missed deadlines. Meanwhile, MDWASD is planning to beat acts of Mother Nature — and the strains she puts on an aging system serving a booming population — to the punch. In a teaming effort with Woolpert, a U.S.-based consulting-engineering and Geographic Information System (GIS) firm specializing in water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater infrastructure management, MDWASD is developing the framework for a comprehensive utility information management system by using unprecedented Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) and GIS methods. The $4.4 million project is immense: It involves converting MDWASD’s 1,106 water and sewer atlas sheets from paper to digital format; using GPS surveying to accurately field-verify up to 170,000 above-ground water and sanitary sewer structures; pulling information from previously created planimetricbased geographic information 2

systems; and from this collective data, creating GIS layers in a user-friendly Arc/Info environment compatible with MDWASD’s current and future information system goals.


Setting new standards.

hen completed in fall 1997, MDWASD will have the nation’s most extensive, most exact utility-assets inventory network. “It will be more than digital maps, more than inventory data. It will be an accurate, dynamic, multi-tiered information management system for both water and sanitary sewer that will help Metro-Dade County cost-effectively meet consent decree requirements, as well as help us plan for beyond year 2002,” said County Commissioner Natacha Seijas Millan, who chaired MetroDade’s Construction Development and Utilities Committee. The project’s unprecedented methodologies are helping MDWASD make good on these goals. First, RealTime Kinematic (RTK) Natacha Seijas Millan GPS is being used to Metro-Dade County Commissioner collect field data — an industry first — which Woolpert collaborated with Trimble Navigation Ltd. to develop. “The project’s immense size and high-end accuracy requirements demanded totally innovative approaches to capturing

The Numbers Sheer size exceeds that of any other utility conversion pr oject to date project The MDWASD project involves conversion of more than 1,100 atlas sheets that map: • 2,500 miles of gravity sewer • 700 miles of force mains • 900 pump stations • 65,700 manholes • 3,200 sewer-main valves • 3 wastewater treatment plants • 4,000 miles of water mains • 72,600 water valves • 28,600 fire hydrants • 9 water-treatment facilities

vast amounts of data in as quick a time-frame as possible,” said Rex W. Cowden, Chief Operating Officer, Woolpert. “The new RTK GPS technology proved a huge success, and the final result will be an inventory that includes much more than the original atlas sheets ever recorded.” Real-Time means raw data are collected and immediately processed via a radio link between a base station and GPS surveyors using pen-based PCs. Surveyors see results — position and accuracy — in real time, without waiting for later post-processing, and can ensure sufficient data have been collected while still in the field. Kinematic means threedimensional centimeter-level accuracy, obtained in as quick as five seconds as opposed to minutes. “The bottom line: The field-inventory phase is going five times faster and costing up to 50 percent less compared to conventional utility-location surveys,” said Michael J. Stanoikovich, PS, Director, Surveying Group, Woolpert. Second, the GIS being produced from the GPS data, source documents, and planimetric data takes spatial and cartographic requirements to neverseen-before heights. All geographic information systems are spatial: Structures are identified in relation to other structures. The MDWASD GIS is not only spatial — it’s horizontally and vertically accurate down to the

3.5-centimeter-level collected in the field-inventory phase. In other words, the GIS will be a virtual representation of what’s on top of and in the ground. This kind of precision initially posed several management, organizational, and cartographic challenges. “We had to create a solution to make a lot of data easy to interpret at 1''=300' scale. In other words, we had to devise a way to basically squeeze symbols for manholes, fire hydrants, and the like onto tiny spaces in the GIS layers; still accurately represent each element’s location and network connectivity; and be cartographically legible,” said Paul Klimas, Project Manager, GIS Division, Woolpert. To date, no GIS had achieved legible centimeter-level accuracy at a usable map scale. Klimas, however, developed a programming methodology using Bentley’s MicroStation that manipulates

“The cutting-edge GIS technology, for example, will not only be able to exactly pinpoint a pipe’s location and offer information about its condition: It will also be used in hydraulicmodeling efforts to predict the role that pipe plays in the larger system; if and how that role can be expanded on; even how the utility system itself can or should be improved upon,” Klimas said.

The Benefits of GPS • GPS is accurate — down to 3.5 centimeters. • GPS is cost-effective — 30 to 50 percent cheaper than conventional methods. • GPS is fast — as quick as 5 seconds per structure. • GPS is weather -r eady — it can be performed in weather-r -ready rain, sleet, or snow. • GPS-to-GIS integration is easy — cell libraries are loaded into pen-based PCs before field-work begins. Utility data collected in the field are automatically formatted for bulk-loading into the correct GIS data layers.

symbols and their corresponding attributes in the GIS to be both cartographically legible and spatially accurate. The ultimate result will be a GIS for MDWASD that offers a four-tiered spectrum of uses: • Computerized Inventory • Information Management • Model Simulation/ Data Analysis • Strategic Planning 3


Solving specific problems.

DWASD engineers will use the GIS and its built-in Automated Mapping/Facilities Management tools to model and analyze utility-network scenarios, allowing identification of infiltration/inflow, pipe deterioration, water quality, and potential water loss — with an eye on proactive Computer Maintenance Management System solutions that save money. Approximately 40 percent of the total sewage flow to treatment plants during rainy weather is linked to infiltration/inflow. By repairing or replacing problem pipes, peak flow to the plants has been slashed by 50 millions of gallons per day, eliminating proposed capacity upgrades for 90 pump stations and saving MDWASD $10 million in construction. “Still, the infiltration/ inflow condition is very difficult to quantify,” said Anthony J. Clemente, Director, MDWASD. “But by using the GIS, we’ll be able to develop a model of infiltration/inflow problems, and get a more accurate assessment of our pipe repair and replacement needs. The new pumpstation construction savings could be even more than what we’ve already seen.” Indeed, preventive medicine costs less than major surgery, and the cost to maintain a pipe is Anthony J. Clemente almost always MDWASD Director cheaper than the cost to replace it. The GIS will enable MDWASD to better preserve pipes by using modeling and data analysis to predict “aches and pains” — such as corrosion’s early stages — allowing for preventive maintenance. Moreover, because of the 3.5centimeter-level accuracy obtained in the field-inventory phase, the GIS will allow maintenance crews to more

precisely locate ailing pipes or other problematic utility components — reducing the size of construction zones, even allowing for trenchless technology. Also known as Subsurface Utility Engineering, this no-dig methodology reduces disruption to Intra-Project TTechnologies echnologies are Saving TTime ime and Money •W oolper onment and bar -coding pr ocess to manage the Woolper oolpertt designed a MapInfo envir environment bar-coding process flow of sour ce documents. The process organizes and tracks the movement of information source between Woolpert and other project participants at offices in Miami; Dayton, Ohio; and Mobile, Ala. The process ensures a steady flow of documents, accurate scanning, and proper archiving. •W oolper eated a system of electr onic mail and file exchange via the Internet to Woolper oolpertt cr created electronic coor dinate this multi-par ticipant, multi-location effor t. As work is completed, Woolpert coordinate multi-participant, effort. sends deliverables through the Internet. MDWASD communicates its acceptance or suggestions for changes through the Internet. Project managers and coordinators follow up by phone or in-person meetings. Using the Internet is keeping phone bills and travel costs down while expediting the project’s completion.

economic activity, plus it minimizes the risk of damage to nearby buildings and electrical, phone, and gas lines. The GIS accuracy will also help MDWASD deal with a crisis situation, such as a water-main break requiring immediate valve identification and closure to isolate the failing pipe segment. It will help staff alert affected customers to service interruptions. And finally, the accurate GIS will help locate utility structures covered by debris in the aftermath of major storms — an important benefit to a region that’s still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Andrew. Meanwhile, as Miami’s (and the nation’s) infrastructure ages, preventive maintenance will become increasingly important. Sixty percent of U.S. water and wastewater systems were installed before 1950, and their pipes are deteriorating. The National Council on Public Works Improvement gave potable water systems nationwide a “B-”. Sanitary sewer systems fared worse with an overall “C” grade. “Utility designs decades ago were not nearly as comprehensive as they are today. Moreover, an ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ attitude tended to prevail 4

until just a few years ago,” Clemente said. But not anymore. Public awareness of the nation’s aged infrastructure is at an all-time high. Drinking-water purity, especially, is the question on the lips of not only government and private environmental groups, but of citizens in general. “Clearly, MetroDade County is not alone in its effort to upgrade both the water and sanitary sewer systems,” Commissioner Millan said. “The beauty of the GIS is that we will know what we have, where we have it, and what kind of condition it’s in, allowing us to take the next step to effectively predict and solve problems.” The GIS could also help prevent water loss. The American Water Works Association recommends an aggressive goal for lost or non-revenue-producing water of less than 10 percent. “We’re being proactive by positioning ourselves with accurate information through the GIS to identify weak spots in the water system — or detect components that need maintenance before they become problems — valves, for example, which need to be ‘exercised’ or rotated on a periodic continued on page 6

Water/Sanitary Sewer

The Four Stages of Water/Sewer GIS Development by Paul J. Klimas, Project Manager, GIS Division, Woolpert


ost geographic information systems created as recently as a few years ago performed inventory and mapping needs — then stopped. Geographic information systems today are dynamic: The sky is the limit on who will use the GIS, and what he or she can use it for. Below, the four stages of a water/sewer system GIS:

Stage 1: Computerized Inventory GIS uses are identified, with a focus on endresults and benefits. All necessary baseline information is obtained. From this information, an accurate GIS is created with room for expansion. Also at this stage, MIS and GIS staff configure internal computers; develop GIS/database architecture; and resolve standard IS issues, such as who maintains and has access to various data. GIS uses at Stage 1: • mapping and utility-element location and function • assets inventory and condition-assessment surveys • as-built/document-management integration • future GIS/IS planning and development Stage 2: Information Management Through networked computers, GIS data is integrated with other support systems and databases — the beginnings of a comprehensive organization-wide program management system — benefiting customer service, billing, and maintenance operations.

GIS uses at Stage 2: • customer service/support/billing • computer maintenance management system • maintenance work-order processing and dispatching • cost management and valuation Specific Example: A residential customer calls complaining about low water pressure. The customer service representative through the GIS has at his fingertips a visual picture of the caller’s location and maintenance activities occurring in the vicinity. Instead of issuing a work-order to investigate the complaint, the customer service representative can immediately inform the caller of the nearby maintenance activities causing the water-pressure problem and assure the caller that the condition is temporary.

Stage 3: Model Simulation/Data Analysis GIS program management expands to include modeling and analysis functions. The GIS is integrated with supporting IS subsystems to identify and resolve engineering problems. GIS uses at Stage 3: • data modeling • hydraulic modeling • peak-flow analysis • infiltration/inflow identification • water-loss identification • water-quality analysis • operational-inefficiencies analysis • design/build-constraint analysis Specific Example: Engineers use the accurate GIS data to determine if sewage levels can be raised inside pipes without overloading the system, possibly eliminating the need to build expensive force mains or expand treatment plants. Stage 4: Strategic Planning GIS program management reaches its ultimate use: capital improvements planning. GIS uses at Stage 4: • computer-aided decisions (quantitative analyses and recommendations) • long-range master plans, budget development, and grant applications • utility system life-cycles and risk management Specific Example: Organizational leaders use GIS data in conjunction with results derived from flow models to determine if $10 million is best spent on utility extensions, maintenance and repairs, or full-fledged rehabilitation.


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basis to prevent them from becoming rusted in position. The GIS will help us coordinate this effort,” said William M. Brant, Deputy Director, MDWASD. The valve-exercising program — as well as other utility maintenance efforts — will be based on a Computer Maintenance Management System that uses the GIS information. “The GIS is a fabulous tool to create a management system that organizes information about each water and sanitary sewer system component, allowing for a variety of maintenance programs,” said Debbie VieraRodriguez, MIS Chief, MDWASD.


Creating innovative solutions.

ounty officials and MDWASD planners will ultimately use the GIS to see the “big picture” — a boon for budgeting, developing capital improvement goals, obtaining funding, and devising revolutionary concepts to optimize the utility system. The emphasis at this point in the GIS is not just about making decisions or selling ideas, according to Woolpert’s Klimas, but about being able to back up these plans with accurate, quantitative data. “Because the GIS makes huge amounts of information manageable, when the time comes to make major decisions,

Water/Sanitary Sewer

the big picture will be readily available in an understandable, accurate, complete format.” Klimas said. For example, not only can the GIS immediately help MDWASD accomplish a coordinated valveexercising agenda, it will actually help planners budget annually for the program. Even more long-term, the GIS will help MDWASD develop a capital improvement strategy for replacing valves. The GIS will also be used in creating a capital improvement plan to keep pace with Miami’s booming residential and commercial development — an important consideration under Florida’s Growth Management Act. Using GIS data, a hydraulic model will be created to predict new construction’s impact on transmission capacity and pressure levels at connection points. The model will foresee possible overflow points within the system — even recommend new infrastructure needs and help MDWASD budget for them. The GIS itself can also be used as a tool to effectively represent and communicate water and sanitary sewer needs during the grant application process, thereby increasing the chances of obtaining outside funding for a variety of projects. Finally, the GIS will help MDWASD deal with the impact of inclement weather. Combining pump6

station and force-main data from the GIS, a hydraulic model of the sanitary sewer system will be created to determine how much wastewater the system can store and transport — in other words, identify those pipes capable of handling increased sewage loads. If the model predicts what officials hope it will, sewage during heavy rains will be temporarily stored in some pipes before being released through the system, reducing sanitary sewer overflows and eliminating the need to construct expensive force mains and expand treatment plants. “The GIS will give us the ability during capital improvement planning to develop valid alternatives to costly construction — saving the region millions of dollars in ‘band-aid’ repairs. We won’t be throwing money at projects that were never necessary in the first place. We’ll be putting the money to its best uses,” Clemente said. For a region whose way of life is defined by brilliant blue seas or ominous gray clouds, having a means to better cope with water’s downside is the silver lining Miami is seeking.

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