COLLABORATION AND KNOWLEDGE SHARING PROGRAM
This program focuses on improving and facilitating collaboration and knowledge sharing within the water industry. Much can be gained from working together and sharing information, which is why this program trials new knowledge sharing methods and initiates industry forums, workshops and conferences. The leader of this program is Michael Thomas from Barwon Water.
MRWA Product Web Portal
South East Water, Yarra Valley Water and City West Water were part of the initial Melbourne Retail Water Agencies (MRWA) Approved Product Web Portal and it has since been expanded to include nine additional water corporations.
Description of project
Access has been expanded to nine other regional corporations: Barwon Water, Central Highlands Water, Coliban Water, Gippsland Water, Goulburn Valley Water, Lower Murray Water, South Gippsland Water, Wannon Water and Western Water.
The MRWA Product Web Portal enables users to search and obtain details of adopted industry standards, products and materials currently accepted by the corporations for the installation of pipeline systems and associated Infrastructure works. The MRWA do not give preference to any particular make or type of product included in the portal and may include additional equivalent products in accordance with their product appraisal programs.
This project has the potential to be of huge benefit for the additional participating water corporations, who currently don’t have a consistent way to identify to stakeholders accepted products or manage them in house and therefore don’t share their learnings with the rest of the Victorian water industry.
TIM/Platform Development Project
The Targeted Ideas Management (TIM) software platform (developed by the Smart Water Fund) is a knowledge sharing technology that IWN is adapting for implementation. Adopting such a platform would allow Victorian water industry staff to contact their peers and engage in open collaborative conversation about their work. TIM would also allow for media sharing i.e. articles, press releases and other media relevant to the sector and would also function as a library for project reports.
TIM is now in its beta testing phase. The site has functionality but lacks aesthetics and full user friendliness.
IWN Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing conference
The 2019 Knowledge Sharing & Collaboration Conference will be held on Friday 22 March 2019 between 9am – 5.30pm at Barwon Water in Geelong.
Submissions around the following themes have been accepted: innovation and technology, customer and community, smart networks and infrastructure as well as energy and zero waste.
To download the agenda, click on the link here.
Digital Metering Workshop
Following the completion of the recent iteration of the Intelligent Metering Survey, significant interest has been shown in what other water corporations are doing in the Digital Metering space.
As a result, a Digital Metering Workshop was recently organised to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration on this topic. Representatives from all Victorian water corporations were in attendance, and presentations were given by industry employees and relevant experts on current digital metering projects, business cases, digital innovations and the lessons that have been learnt thus far. Following the presentations, those in attendance were asked to workshop a series of questions to promote knowledge sharing and facilitate connections across the industry.
A survey of attendees has been completed and the results are viewable by following this link.
Digital Metering Risk Assessment Tool (DMRAT)
Many Victorian water corporations are investigating digital metering, and some are developing business cases for their stakeholders.
In 2016, IWN contracted consulting firm Oakley Greenwood to develop a Digital Metering Risk Assessment Tool (DMRAT) to help water corporations identify risks, costs and benefits specific to each organisation, and thereby develop business cases for deploying digital water meters.
Oakley Greenwood conducted a series of workshops with industry participants to identify and rate risks and potential mitigation measures. Information from external stakeholders also guided the assessment.
Description of project
The Digital Metering Risk Assessment Tool is a spreadsheet that allows users to input the features of their proposed digital metering solution. It then rates risks for the proposed scenario, from insignificant to extreme, by assessing their likelihood of occurrence and the magnitude of their consequences.
The tool then recommends a range of responses or risk treatments: ‘Tolerate’ (low risks), ‘Transfer’ (risk to another party), ‘Mitigate’ (where necessary and affordable), or ‘Avoid’ (extreme risks).
The resulting recommendations can be assessed within each organisation’s wider risk framework.
Scenario options (inputs) include:
• Technology – meter type, level of automation, communication system and power source
• Operation - meter reading interval, type and frequency of communication to customers
• Management – network and software system ownership, meter procurement, roll-out and installation.
The Tool identifies nearly 200 risks associated with digital metering, which can be classified as:
• Initial and ongoing political and regulatory support
• Negative customer perceptions with mandatory roll out (as experienced with smart electricity meters)
• Technology limitations, failure, under-performance, hacking and obsolescence
• Cost blow outs and failure to deliver promised benefits
• Operational and management changes required within the water corporation
The tool describes five hypothetical scenarios to provide practical context for water authorities, and will be updated as more is learnt from digital water meter deployments.
The Digital Metering Risk Assessment Tool is recommended as a business as usual tool to help water corporations understand the risks of various digital metering solutions. The Digital Metering Risk Assessment Tool is not a static mechanism; as water corporations deploy digital water meters, real life lessons will be fed into the Tool to improve its accuracy and relevance.
Customer Needs and Values Project
In 2011, IWN commissioned Accenture to research and compile the Water Services Needs and Values report. Key objectives of this research were to identify the needs and values of residential water customers, opportunities for better products and services, barriers to the adoption of smart technologies, and developing the technologies’ value propositions for different customer groups.
Description of project
Research was obtained via:
- A literature review
- Focus group meetings
- Stakeholder interviews with water corporations, consumer groups and government and welfare agencies
- A consumer survey eliciting 1095 responses
Outcomes of project
The research found:
1. Water corporations are trusted
2. Consumers want regular data on their water usage, by appliance and compared to other households. They would prefer to pay based on consumption rather than fixed supply charges.
3. Water corporations must prove that they are ‘environmentally friendly’ with meaningful action.
4. Several challenges to water corporations’ trusted community status are emerging:
• Maintaining quality as supply sources diversify
• Maintaining consistent delivery during infrastructure upgrades and changes
• Allaying concerns over rising water prices
5. Tap water has no brand, and brands provide a focus for customer loyalty and engagement; crucial when introducing new products, services and technologies in an inherently conservative market.
6. Water corporations must consider partnering with smart tech companies to meet growing customer demand for product personalisation.
7. Like electricity, customers of water corporations are unaware of how the industry is structured and what technology can do to improve services.
Water corporations are strongly advised to heed the lessons highlighted by this research to develop more persuasive technology value propositions for their different customer groups.
Non-compliant customer plumbing, or cross-connected pipework, has led to rare but potentially serious incidents of drinking water contamination. There have been cases of recycled or untreated water infiltrating Australian schools, homes, recreational spaces and workplaces. Regular physical audits of properties for cross connections are expensive and intrusive.
Description of project
Anti-ingestant chemicals add a distinct odour, taste or colour to water (similar to the pungent additive in odourless natural gas) and can warn of contamination. In April 2016, Yarra Valley Water (YVW) proposed investigating whether adding an anti-ingestant to their Class A recycled water supply would prove to be a cost-effective method of alerting property owners of cross-contamination. The anti-ingestant under consideration was Bitrex® (denatonium benzoate), a bittering agent identified in a study of potential anti-ingestants by Sydney Water.
The proposed trial had three stages:
1. Peer and expert review of work completed by YVW and Sydney Water, and analysis of the environmental, health and legal risks.
2. Provided the risk is acceptable, Bitrex® dosing of the Class A recycled water supply to 500 residential properties in YVW’s service area, over several days.
3. Evaluation and report to the IWN Executive Group, including an assessment of the findings’ applicability to other water corporations.
Results of project
In Stage 1, the project team led by YVW found that there were significant knowledge gaps regarding the impact Bitrex® would have on water that may be consumed, and the effect it would have on the environment. Based on the information available, the project team found that adding Bitrex® to the recycled water supply may present an unacceptable public health risk and could accumulate in the environment with detrimental effects. Therefore, the trial did not proceed to Stage 2.
Further research is required to comprehensively determine the viability of using Bitrex® in recycled water. However, a positive result is considered unlikely, so further research is not recommended.
It is proposed that a detailed evaluation report should be completed by December 2017 to capture the project findings. Upon completion of the Evaluation Report, the project will be closed and will not proceed to the field trial stage.
Virtual Meetings Project
Video conferencing and digital meetings (virtual meetings) can eliminate the significant cost, time, emissions and risk of physical travel to water industry meetings across the state, and facilitate more flexible and frequent collaboration. In May 2017, IWN commissioned a study into the virtual meeting capabilities of its 20 member organisations.
- Staff physically attend most meetings, with long distance travel and accommodation often costing thousands.
- Virtual meetings are mostly used for one-on-one dialogue rather than group discussions.
- 17 out of 20 IWN members have some form of virtual meeting capability, with Skype for Business being the predominant technology.
- Most members under-utilise their virtual meeting services even though they are high quality and easy to use, suggesting a cultural shift is needed.
- Video conferencing platforms are not always compatible across member organisations.
- The potential business and personal benefits of virtual meetings have not been quantified, but common sense suggests they would be high.
IWN will help drive adoption of virtual meetings among its members by investigating opportunities to connect disparate technology platforms, capitalise on existing resources and create user guides. Specifically:
• Employing a cloud-based system to bridge different video conferencing platforms
• Connecting all IWN organisations through Skype for Business
• Providing guidance on the best technology for different situations, such as teleconferences, screen sharing, virtual whiteboards, webinars, video conferences and virtual reality.
• Providing guidance on how to create conducive virtual meeting environments – e.g. meeting etiquette, minimising noise and distractions, and managing technology such as cameras, lighting, microphones and initiating calls.
• Providing resources for virtual meeting champions to drive greater uptake across their organisations.
• Identifying specific water industry meetings, conferences, workshops and events that would be simple and cost-effective to shift to virtual meetings immediately.