Aurecon’s digital engineering applications help to identify and repair wet weather waste water overflows into the city’s stormwater system.

Digital Expertise: Case study

Sydney Water Wet Weather Overflow Improvement Programme

Prioritising capital investment through digital tools

Below Sydney, there is a change underway as Aurecon’s digital engineering applications help to identify and repair wet weather wastewater overflows into the city’s stormwater system.

Wet weather overflows pollute the environment in several ways including:

  • Visual impact from debris within wastewater flows
  • Chemical pollution from ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Restricting access to rivers, waterways and the ocean due to higher levels of faecal coliform

Aurecon worked in partnership with Sydney Water on a pilot programme to inspect wastewater assets and devise a digital platform that geographically plots the performance, condition and location of each asset.

Data provides us with knowledge, which gives us the power to make informed decisions.

Sydney Water Weather Inflow and Infiltration Sources

Armed with this geo-linked digital asset data, Sydney Water successfully rolled out an asset repair and replacement programme in the pilot area in Southern Sydney.

The pilot programme reduced stormwater spill frequency by 50 per cent and the overall spilt volume by 85 per cent.

Digital asset management is important for organisations to monitor and track asset data in a systemised way. The benefits for Sydney Water included improvements to the way that asset renewal and maintenance was planned and budgeted. The pilot programme has now been expanded to cover one quarter of Sydney Water’s entire wastewater asset network.

Breaking down the data silos

This was a complex data project as:

  • Parts of the system were more than 100 years old and assets had been constructed over a long period of time, resulting in myriad configurations and conditions
  • Historic asset records were old, incomplete, inaccurate or sometimes missing
  • Historic asset data was housed in six separate databases held by Sydney Water

To develop the digital asset management application, Aurecon and Sydney Water used a digital engineering platform to breakdown and consolidate the six silos of data from Sydney Water.

Six data silos down to one

The six silos of data from Sydney Water

Aurecon’s Programme Manager, Ben Dunn, said the process started with Aurecon drawing all existing data into one database as the single source of truth.

“Then we defined a consistent referencing system to categorise the data,” said Mr. Dunn.

"To do this, we mined historical data from more than 4000 2D printed drawings, and combined this with the existing information from the six databases. This process revealed significant data gaps so it wasn’t possible to form a complete asset inventory. We addressed these gaps by collecting additional data through physical site inspections of water assets.”

Closing the data gap

The age of the wastewater pipe manholes and stormwater flow valves, combined with the disparate data on each asset, meant that physical inspections of some of the assets was required to fill in the data gaps.

With field officers at the ready, a programme was devised to undertake physical asset inspections and collect asset performance, location and condition data.

This wasn’t an easy task. Underground assets were hard to reach and the volume of data to extract was onerous.

Aurecon’s innovative use of statistical analysis and digital hydraulic modelling guided the cyclical approach of collecting, analysing and consolidating data.

Physical inspections yielded additional data

Statistical analysis and digital hydraulic modelling data

Statistical analysis and digital hydraulic modelling data

Aurecon and Sydney Water created a digital record capture programme for each field officer to collect the large volume of data required from each individual asset. Using a tablet, each field officer at each site was able to capture and upload photos, videos, digital scans, geographical positioning and modelling data into the digital programme.

The site data was integrated with the digital asset management application in real-time and the output was a visual dashboard of asset position, performance, type and condition.

A visual dashboard comes to life

Visual dashboards for asset inventory

In terms of mapping data from the historical databases and the physical inspection process, one of the most important factors was to have a visual picture of the asset locations, especially the buried assets.

Reimagining traditional data reporting and understanding the rows and rows of information was never going to be easy.

A digital platform was designed to present volumes of data as visual dashboards for Sydney Water and its stakeholders.

The result was a user-friendly digital asset management dashboard that provides Sydney Water with real-time information on each asset within the programme’s geographical area.

The dashboard is used to track changes to the asset inventory, track asset failures and provide a detailed insight into the condition of assets.

The highly collaborative relationship between Aurecon and Sydney Water allowed us to develop a dashboard that provides a deeply detailed picture of the infrastructure assets in the programme area.

As complex as it is simple

Sydney Water’s Wet Weather Overflow Improvement Programme was an asset management process that’s as complex as it was simple.

In 2012, Sydney Water estimated that AUD5.5 billion was required to construct additional transfer pipework, treatment and storage facilities to handle the capacity of wet weather overflows. Sydney Water had estimated that the cost would be passed to customers with an increase on their bills of 30 per cent for at least the next 50 years.

The Wet Weather Overflow Improvement Programme has changed all that. Through the collection, consolidation and statistical analysis of the data on each infrastructure asset, the programme team discovered the true sources of wet weather flows.

The approach of utilising the fundamentals of project lifecycle planning, digital disruption and data analytics provided Sydney Water with insights into their wastewater and stormwater assets in a way that has never before been possible.

Wet Weather Overflow Digital Concept

Wet Weather Overflow Digital Concept

The statistical analysis identified that the major source of flows was a result of Sydney Water’s infrastructure not operating as intended.

The team started with terabytes of data and designed a dashboard to interrogate it. This presented the data in a visually compelling way that was easy to understand and allowed for the systematic planning and repair of replacement assets.

Sydney Water’s programme of works to prioritise, repair and replace assets has mitigated the initial billion-dollar expenditure by up to 80 per cent.

Bespoke digital asset management application

Historically, companies in general haven’t placed as much emphasis on maximising assets, instead choosing to build new capacity. But our current period of global cost constraints and the rise of digitisation has provided new opportunities for organisations to reinvest in, and maximise, their existing assets.

For the Wet Weather Overflow Improvement Programme, the customisable nature of digital engineering allowed Aurecon and Sydney Water to create a bespoke digital asset management application that interrogated stormwater and wastewater data and mapped new data where required. This data analysis had never previously been possible for Sydney Water.

Digital engineering and statistical analysis provided this programme with a new way of capturing, storing, interrogating, calibrating and validating data for asset management.

As the Wet Weather Overflow Improvement Programme begins to extend further throughout Sydney Water’s network, the volumes of data will enable better decision-making visibility for the network’s renewal and maintenance planning.


Aurecon logo Aurecon and Sydney Water Improvement Programme

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