Faced with aging infrastructure, water utilities must respond quickly and effectively to any sign of problems in their water mains. Staying with legacy communications systems may seem easier because of institutional inertia.

However, in today’s connected and tech-focused utilities sector, there are better and more effective ways to connect people, with internal teams and customers alike gaining new digital ways to communicate.

Water Main Problems: Severity and Frequency are High

Keeping the same behind-the-scenes technologies that have served utilities for decades is an inadequate response to the challenges of providing water service today. As Water Finance & Management reported, the rate of water main breaks is on the rise. The publication pointed to a Utah State University survey that indicated water main breaks increased by 27% between 2012 and 2018.

Aging pipes pose a real risk of damage to communities, as well as requiring hugely increased attention from utility personnel. The USU survey found small communities are at an elevated risk of suffering water main damage. These towns do not have the same budget and staffing availability as larger municipalities. With that said, pipe replacement is behind schedule even in the biggest cities, and water main breaks are a threat everywhere.

Water Utility Digitization: Opportunities Abound

Adding digital capabilities to a utility’s infrastructure is a potentially transformative approach to managing the organization. A McKinsey & Company report on the digital imperative in the sector pointed out that the use of modern IT deployments by these companies is only “moderate.” Bound by long histories and regulations, with some utilities dealing with infrastructure over 100 years old, it’s easy to see why these updates have proven frustratingly slow. However, faced with a crisis such as the rapid rise in water main break rates, better processes are clearly needed.

McKinsey indicated that utilities have been increasing their use of advanced sensors, communication tools and data analytics. These organizations are giving themselves new and improved ways to deal with challenges that occur, as well as more efficient and cost-effective approaches to everyday processes such as internal communication and community relations.

Advanced Tech and Water Main Issues: A New Solution for an Old Problem

When water utilities embrace digitization, they gain several ways to become more responsive to problems with their mains. For example, giving citizens the opportunity to call an automated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system and report water problems reduces the demands on employee time while ensuring the information is logged quickly. Once a problem is confirmed, office personnel can use mobile applications to dispatch work crews, giving them vital information through the app interface.

The general trend with utility digitization involves replacing manual and imprecise legacy procedures with new and more efficient alternatives. Equipped with greater volumes of information than ever before and able to communicate with both the public and every internal team, water utilities can coordinate their efforts to deal with water main problems and minimize the impact of these potentially devastating events.

Reach out to dataVoice to learn about the combination of solutions that can transform your water utility for the better.

SOURCES

https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1173&context=mae_facpub

https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Electric%20Power%20and%20Natural%20Gas/Our%20Insights/The%20Digital%20Utility/The%20Digital%20Utility.ashx

https://waterfm.com/study-water-main-breaks-27-percent-past-six-years/

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