Stellenbosch Municipality implemented the IMQS telemetry solution as part of their drought monitoring programme in 2017/2018. What is telemetry and how is this set of smart technologies assisting municipal water resource management at Stellenbosch Municipality?

WHAT IS TELEMETRY


The term “telemetry” often refers to an automated process where sensors take measurements at locations and then transmit the data to a central point for processing.

The telemetry data can be transmitted via various means including wire-, radio- and cellular-based technology.

The data received from the sensors is normally converted to useful information that can be used by operators to monitor the status or condition of equipment or infrastructure.

MEASURED VALUES MAY INCLUDE:

Status values – for example when a gate is open or closed

Condition values – for example the level of water in a reservoir or the pressure in a water pipe.

HOW DOES TELEMETRY ASSIST WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT?


According to IMQS Product Owner Jaco Botha, “telemetry plays an important role in water resource management, including water quality and stream gauging functions”. Telemetry can be used to record the pressure, flow and temperature in hydraulic systems. Moreover, real-time data can be used to monitor water treatment processes as well as infrastructure performance and allows for quick reactions to events in the field.

WATER MONITORING APPLICATIONS:

Automatic meter reading

Groundwater monitoring

Leak detection

Equipment surveillance

The major advantages of telemetry are remote control and foresight. According to Botha, telemetry control allows engineers to intervene in the case of assets such as pumps, by remotely switching them on or off, depending on the circumstances. Moreover, having knowledge of pressure in a hydraulic system can give one early warning of events such as leaks.

Smart water management is by no means a thing of the future. As Botha notes, “these systems already dominate day-to-day water management”. However, as the application of telemetry matures, the modelling and planning of water and sewer infrastructure will be greatly enhanced.

IMQS’S GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEM


Jaco Botha and his team at IMQS Software are hard at work ensuring that municipalities have accurate information to better understand their municipal water network. A key tool in this regard is the powerful IMQS geographic information system (GIS), Albion. In other words, in the IMQS context, telemetry information is displayed geographically on a GIS map.

Botha explains that each type of sensor is represented by a single layer on a map. When layers are overlaid on the same map, a user is presented with a holistic view of all relevant equipment or infrastructure being monitored. Layers can, moreover, be switched on or off. This information can be used for early failure detection or to inform operators of unwanted events, such as a sudden drop in pressure due to a burst pipe.

The IMQS GIS system is used in a wide range of infrastructure-management-related fields, and is currently assisting water resource management at Stellenbosch Municipality.

RESERVOIR-LEVEL MEASUREMENT AT STELLENBOSCH MUNICIPALITY


Having water in the reservoir is like having money in the bank. Any water that flows out of a reservoir by unregulated means is a waste. It is irrelevant whether the loss is due to an overflowing reservoir or a burst water pipe. What matters most is the speed at which a problem can be resolved. It is therefore imperative to constantly monitor the water network to detect any unusual behaviour as early as possible.

Stellenbosch Municipality implemented the IMQS telemetry solution as part of their drought monitoring programme in 2017/2018. The IMQS telemetry solution is used to monitor water levels in the municipality’s reservoirs. Readings are displayed spatially on a GIS map to provide the municipality with a holistic view of the water levels at all their reservoirs with near real-time accuracy.

The reservoir levels are categorised and displayed as seen in the legend of the image below. This functionality allows users to display relevant categories in order to isolate and display reservoirs where problems are identified.

Where more detail is needed, the user can easily zoom in to the required level. When a reservoir is selected from the GIS map, the detail of that reservoir is displayed in the property box to the right, including the last reading received from the water-level sensor.

The image below serves to illustrate historic information for the reservoir that shows the change of the water level over time.

THE FUTURE OF SMART WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT


With the help of telemetry, Stellenbosch Municipality has made great strides in overcoming the myriad challenges associated with water resource management. However, for Botha and his team, the work has just begun.

“We need to constantly improve this GIS-based telemetry system,” says Botha.

More immediately, Botha’s team is working on improving the display of data and making it easier to add a wider variety of new sensors to the network. They also want to construct a mechanism to inform users of when problematic events are reported, laying the foundation for combining values from different sensors to trigger rule-based alarm events. The long-term goal is, however, to enable municipal engineers to control equipment remotely!

While the task set out by Botha and his team is not an easy one, the intent is clear: “ to rapidly improve the wastage of water, which is becoming a more scarce resource on a daily basis, especially in the Western Cape”.

If you liked this article, check out our other blog on Water Resource Management at Stellenbosch or download our free Smart Water Ebook.