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Customer Case Study

Townsville City Council

Queensland

Small installation of Smart Water Meters but extensive use of network to solve problems in many areas of operation.

 

Townsville City Council has been pushing the capabilities of Taggle technology collecting data from a wide variety of applications to identify and solve problems.

Timeline of Townsville and Taggle technology;

  • 2012 – First contact and pilot project discussions
  • 2013 – Smart Water Pilot – 12 month trial of automatic meter readings
  • 2014 – Electricity and temperature
  • 2015 – Sensor Q development (water quality), litter trap in waterways
  • 2018 – Pressure and rainfall
  • 2019 – River flow, river height, air quality, non-intrusive ultrasonic flow measurements

Smart Water Meters 

Townsville had been conducting campaigns for behavioural changes regarding outdoor water conservation as the Council was facing the challenge of extremely high outdoor water use, as much as 70-80% of water was being used outdoors. The success of these campaigns was hard to validate, it was unsure if they were effective and for how long until the water use would rise again. Quarterly meter reads did not provide enough information for monitoring these changes but hourly data certainly could.

The Council also noted that the devices themselves were a useful tool for behavioural change with customers having access to water usage information via a free online customer portal, these intervention homes saw a reduction of 10% usage and quick identification of leaks which were found in 6% of homes. Townsville is still looking into a network wide rollout which would mean 75,000 meters deployed across the entire network.

Currently, a water metering program is in place for a range of specifically chosen high water consumption properties including schools, commercial properties and sports fields to monitor usage and identify leaks. Other smart meters are placed in hard to reach locations to assist meter readers in regards to workplace health and safety concerns such as meters in heavy lidded pits, meters surrounded by high fences with dogs and other dangerous locations. The council has managed to reduce the number of incidences by having the data sent electronically via the smart meters.

Now that there was a communication network in place Townsville took advantage of it to address other challenges.

Townsville was investigating how to improve efficiency in Townsville in terms of electricity usage. The project was to investigate how the colour of a roof could influence temperature and therefore electricity requirements. Townville created sample sized houses with temperature sensors in the roof cavities to monitor how much influence roof colour has on internal temperature throughout the day. The findings assisted in validating the effectiveness of roof colour which could then be used in future planning.

 

Monitoring electricity and security lights at remote council depots where it was difficult to know whether the lights were actually working without someone going out checking on them.

One of these electricity meters was then placed on a pump that feeds a fresh water lake, the only way to know if the pump wasn’t working correctly was to see a flashing red light on top of the pump. Now with the sensor installed, if the electricity consumption changes Council would be alerted and someone can go check what the problem is.

 Sensor Q – Water Quality Monitoring

In 2015 Townsville partnered with James Cook University to look into water quality in relation to storm water management and protecting the reef.

There was very little visibility into what types of pollutants were in the water, if they peak at any time and what their diurnal patterns might be. A low cost water quality platform called the Sensor Q was developed with the aim to be available across Queensland and Australia.

The Sensor Q measures temperature, dissolved oxygen, PH levels and wave activity and turbidity. With this information alerts and warnings can be set up as changes occur which can help avoid environmental disasters such as fish kills.

Currently the Sensor Q is in the working prototype stage but requires further funding to finish the project.

Storm Water Management 

Another area of storm water management is monitoring litter traps – large nets bolted to pipes to catch debris and rubbish entering the waterways. When the nets become full they are designed to release so they don’t impede the pipes and cause upstream flooding.

Historically, council would drive around to see if they had released or not and would then maintain them.

Council has since retrofitted a Taggle device onto the net to send an alert when they are released, this minimises time spent checking nets and once a net is full it can quickly be addressed without letting much more rubbish out into the environment while the full net has been released.

 

 

Monitoring Pressure

Townsville embarked on using pressure sensors to gather information on the reticulation network health using pressure sensors. The Council supplies water to Magnetic Island reservoirs via a 500mm diameter undersea pipe. This pipe is only used as needed (controlled by Council’s SCADA network) i.e. when levels in the island reservoirs drop to a certain level. A large valve controls the flow.

The Council has been aware that the opening of the valve has some effect on the two suburbs closest to the valve, however, the impact has never been quantified and due to the lack of knowledge, the impact generally thought to be negligible. After recurrent customer complaints of significant low pressure events, the Council installed three pressure sensors at residential properties to monitor pressure. With the data logged every 5 minutes Council now has a clear idea of what is happening and can make plans to address the problem.

Having pressure sensors in place around town has it’s advantages when things go wrong. A 900mm reticulation main had a major leak due to being exposed on a river bed during extreme (and unprecedented) flows during a recent flood event. This caused some debris to puncture the main resulting in an approximate 50ML per day leak. The Council were able to pinpoint the exact date and time this happened due to the drop in pressure.

The Council is now trialling low cost yet highly accurate rain buckets to identify high localised rainfall throughout the region as well as installing river flow and river height sensors to assist in monitoring waterways and sending alerts to the public when there is high rainfall and road closures due to flooding.

Townsville City Council is leading the way as a Smart City in solving problems with IoT devices and insights gleaned from data.