Reinventing dam safety management – utility magazine

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As the owner of most of the state’s large supply dams, WaterNSW places the highest priority on the continued safety of its dams in order to protect people, property and the environment from the adverse effects of failure or the poor functioning of its dams and reservoirs.

Delivering operational excellence is one of the company’s strategic priorities, as WaterNSW is the largest bulk water supplier in Australia.

This pushes the company to focus on excellence in the delivery of its core operations, being a simpler, more efficient and more responsive company to better meet the needs of its customers, its community and its stakeholders.

As a learning organization, WaterNSW continually seeks best practices from other dam owners around the world, as well as from other major risk industries, including aeronautics, rail and nuclear.

The benchmarking effort has enabled the company to define the desired state in areas such as business systems and processes, technology applications, advanced analytics, and data science.

Changes to New South Wales dam safety regulations provided a searing platform that inspired business transformation. As such, WaterNSW is committed to actively contributing to the development and implementation of leading practices in the industry.

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Safety management system

WaterNSW has implemented some fundamental elements that underpin its increased capacity in dam safety management. This includes the development and implementation of a Dam Safety Management System (DSMS) compliant with ISO 55001.

This DSMS provides a framework for dam safety management activities, decision making and support processes.

Data management

At the heart of dam safety activities is a robust monitoring program which is WaterNSW’s first line of defense for the safe operation of its dams and reservoirs.

The main objective of surveillance is to detect anomalies and attract the attention of the responsible person in a timely manner to enable preventive measures to be taken to protect life, property and the environment.

The key criteria for effective monitoring data, which enables technical judgment and effective decision-making regarding the safety condition of the dam, are variety of data, volume and speed.

Thus, WaterNSW sees data as the foundation of a risk-informed, data-driven decision support system for dam safety. That’s why WaterNSW created DamGuard, a bespoke mobile and cloud data management solution.

This replaced the traditional data capture process of using handwritten monitoring sheets for mobile real-time or near-real-time data capture and storage from manual and SCADA information. This information is stored in a data lake.

The system has automated quality assurance, provides dashboards and alerts for rapid assessment, and includes an analytical work plan for further modeling analysis.

DamGuard has speeded up the data collection process and allows Dam Safety staff to spend more time on analysis and decision making.

DamGuard received an iTnews Benchmark Award in 2020 in the IoT category.

Find deeper insights through the application of data science

WaterNSW is now looking to maximize the value of data in DamGuard. An initial area of ​​interest is the development of new types of alarms that have a justifiable basis in dam safety risk, and are classified in such a way that dam safety engineers know the importance or urgency. of each alarm and therefore the priority with which they must act. .

A Behavioral Alarm Discovery project is underway that will identify a defensible alarm hierarchy based on scientific analysis of historical surveillance data data collected daily in DamGuard.

The Data Science approach will enable knowledge extraction from large amounts of data through the application of advanced techniques including data mining, clustering / classification, data modeling, machine learning and regression.

In addition, a science-based approach to data should provide a more consistent, transparent and accurate assessment of conditions at all dams.

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Along with the development and implementation of DamGuard and its additional capabilities, the surveillance data to be captured must be designed or redesigned to take into account the potential failure modes associated with the highest levels of risk.

They should be able to identify any abnormal behavior that could lead to a potential reduction in safety. A Risk Based Surveillance Method (RBSM) has been developed and is now applied across the portfolio to examine the adequacy of the current surveillance system and determine the optimal variety of critical information and instruments required.

In some cases, additional instruments and sensors are required. This opens up opportunities to adapt new technologies or modernize the system. The RBSM assessment was completed at three dam sites.

This resulted in a work program to implement a comprehensive surveillance system, including the supply and installation of new instruments, as well as the modernization and upgrading of existing surveillance equipment.

The monitoring sensors are telemetry based so that monitoring data is fed back automatically to WaterNSW’s centralized SCADA data platform. The surveillance networks for geodetic surveys at these sites have been automated. Automated survey networks have been put into operation.

The benefits of near real-time monitoring, which includes improved warning time and reduced staff presence on site, were instantly realized.

Adopt new technologies

Many new developments in dam instrumentation have appeared in the dam monitoring market. Many of these developments are spinoffs from developments in other commercially viable areas of technology.

The main advantage of some of these instrumentation methods is that they can be applied or installed in existing dams with relatively little installation work.

One example is the evaluation of a satellite-based Synthetic Aperture Interferometric Radar (InSAR) technique at WaterNSW. The reliability and consistency of InSAR methods have been shown to be suitable for use in long-term monitoring of dam deformations.

This is now envisioned for wider application across the portfolio.

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After all the expense and hard work to set up monitoring systems for a dam, then collect data and information (including automated methods for some or all of the instruments), then store and manage the collected data and information , the result is able to assess the condition, performance and behavior of the dam with precision and confidence.

In addition, there is an urgent need to move from traditional reactive analysis to proactive assessment using AI technologies, where an emerging threat to dam safety can be identified before it begins, leaving more time to intervene.

In this case, the actual measured performance of the dams will be compared to the values ​​predicted from the behavioral analytical models which are currently under development. This promotes a better understanding of the dam in question.

The effective and timely presentation of this information to dam safety engineers will provide quality information and intelligence that will inform safety assessment and safety decisions.

Bill Gates said in his book Business @ The Speed ​​of Thought: “The most meaningful way to differentiate your business is to do an exceptional job with information. How you collect, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose ”.

WaterNSW will continue to strive to use data and information to make better, near real-time safety decisions.

For more information, please contact Sam Banzi, Dam Safety and Engineering Manager, WaterNSW at [email protected].


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