An efficient information management system and the ability to anticipate problems or to plan operations in an efficient way are critical aspects to wastewater utilities, both because of more demanding environmental regulations and the need to increase systems exploitation efficiency and safety and improve the information to the consumer and to the general public.

Lately, apart from the traditional monitoring programs usage, wastewater utilities have increasingly invested in telemanagement and telemetry systems, producing large quantities of real-time acquired data. On the other hand, there is a growing use of modelling tools to support planning and operations. In spite of these technological advances, though, there is still an enormous deficit in what concerns the data utilisation and its respective transformation into useful information and in what concerns the integration of modelling tools in the daily management and operation actions.

As a result new approach paradigms in data integration systems have progressively gained strength, which will in the future provide an increased capability to process significant amounts of data automatically, resulting in more efficient control and management tools.

AQUASAFE is one of the elements of this strategy, integrating already existing data and models results in order to produce formatted responses to specific operation and management needs. This process, adjusted to the specific needs of different actors, includes the capability to provide diagnostic and forecast capabilities, apart from system gathered data support. Models are, in this case, considered as mere support instruments, once AQUASAFE is not dependent of any specific model, being able to incorporate models already in use. The main objective is always to increase productivity and safety.

Although the telemetry systems, by allowing the acquisition of real-time data, constitute a valuable monitoring element of network operation conditions, in order their use become effective it is necessary to add efficient data analysis procedures capable to extract information from the data being measured. This analysis capability is achieved by the existence of algorithms that allow “to look” at what is being measured, interpret this values, “learn” with the building up of experience and, in case of necessity, alerting the operator to some possible anomaly.

In a second stage, adding the models’ diagnostic and forecast capabilities, it is possible to go up to a higher level improving the system’s “learning” ability, which is then based not only upon statistical analysis but also in cause-effect relations. Such a system able to add “virtual sensors” to broaden the network’s monitoring points and to provide forecast and simulation capabilities regarding intervention scenarios.

Based on the AQUASAFE platform it is possible to take into account the management of daily problems associated with the drainage network (including overflows, sewer and pumping stations), treatment plants and discharges in the Tagus estuary. The following specific information management needs have been identified as approachable:

  • Provide utilities with mathematical simulations (meteorology, drainage systems, receiving waters) in real-time, without the need for technical specialised knowledge, thus minimising the system’s exploration costs;

  • Overflow events forecast. Part of the Lisbon drainage system is unitary, so when short and intense rain periods occur, overflow situations usually happen;

  • Forecast and assessment of uncontrolled discharges in Tagus estuary. These discharges needs to be accounted for and reported in detail to competent environmental authorities;

  • Maintenance intervention planning, taking tides and weather forecasts into account;

  • Data bases of historic data, to store proof of specific past situations, if needed;

  • Comparison between theoretical flow values from the model and flow meters collected values;

  • Parameter analysis possibility in a short time span, without the need for external programming consultants, such as the daily comparison of the OCD affluent to the treatment plant, with recorded precipitation intensity at the Beirolas rain gauge;

  • Forecast of the treatment plant entry flow to improve its functioning, including secondary treatment and energy production;

  • Continuous flow meter functioning status verification. Flow meters are used for factoring, so they produce valuable information for the company. The accumulation of debris in their proximity frequently affects performance. The continuous comparison between model forecasts and real measurements allows a timely detection of occasional flaws and the promotion of quick action from maintenance teams;

  • Integrated reports production and presentation, in the control room, of geographically dispersed data (scada systems, monitoring stations, model forecast analysis, etc.) which generate information flows usable by the operation;

  • User interface creation and automatic model run mechanisms, to allow effective modelling tools usage in the context of daily operations. Modelling tools were already in use, but limited to planning activities, so it was necessary to equip the operation with forecast capabilities in real-time. The fulfilment of this requisite included the implementation of periodic execution routines, automatic integration of measured data to define boundary conditions and automatic validation methods (including alert of observed discrepancies between model results and measurements);

  • Development of sufficiently simple interfaces to allow the system to be managed by non-specialists.

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