Channel Islands Beach Community Creates Efficiency with Operational Transparency

FEATURED STORY with Operational Transparency Channel Islands Beach Community Creates Efficiency

Channel Islands Beach Community Services District (District) provides water, sanitation, and garbage collection services to approximately 10,000 people in the Channel Islands Harbor area. The community’s infrastructure was laid in the 1960s so much of it is nearing the end of its life expectancy. Roughly 80% of the District’s water comes from local groundwater sources and about 20% is brought in through the Metropolitan Water District, which is helpful in times of drought, but more costly. Ensuring the water distribution system is in optimal working order minimizes water loss and helps with water conservation efforts to keep rates low for residents.

By Trent Kamins, Account Manager – Aquatic Informatics

The Challenge

Pre-pandemic, the District recognized the need to improve its asset management and move away from the paper ‘fix it’ notes, to an actual software program that accounted for all assets in one platform and had the capability of managing day to day operations. With a recorded ac- account of the state of all assets, the District would be able to use the data to address urgent needs, plan for regular maintenance and forecast replacement projects.

The District chose Sedaru, a utility operational management platform by Aquatic Informatics.

Deploying the new software before the pandemic shutdown slowed the speed at which new programs were added to the platform, but it gave the district the ability to run operations remotely. Work orders were dispatched, completed, and recorded through the platform, allowing staff to continue efficiently performing their roles.

The Solution

Today the District runs several asset management programs through the platform, including hydrants, water sampling stations, pipes, valves, lift stations, smart meters, and more. When the fire hydrant maintenance program was first input into the platform, it identified a few hydrants as inoperable. With this knowledge, the District was able to prioritize and replace the hydrants in-house.

Field crews record work performed while in the field, record information like static pressure, and can update missing information and add pictures.

Now if a customer calls to complain about their water pressure, the front office staff simply click on the nearest hydrant and read the static pressure to determine if the problem is on the distribution line and needs to be checked out, or if it is a resident issue.

Importance of Valve Maintenance

Prior to the new platform, there was no valve maintenance program. For the most part, valves are neatly tucked away and can continue to work uninterrupted for years if not decades, until something goes wrong. Most valve checks at the District were done based on staff knowledge and years of experience. Now the District connects Sedaru directly to its Wachs valve exercising machine and the work is automatically uploaded as it is performed.

“The field person just clicks on the asset hookup, and the machine records everything straight into Sedaru, including how many turns, how much torque it took, and so on,” said Jesus Navarro, Operations Manager with the District. “These tools work together to eliminate operator error. We now have accurate organized data, that makes it possible to generate reports with a couple of clicks and easily identify faulty valves for replacement. We have taken this data, and now have a board-approved valve replacement program, which would have been very hard to justify without knowing what we now know.”

As the District moved to smart meters, field crews were able to complete the changeout work orders, input new serial information to be used for billing, and add any specifics for future servicing. If a communication node stops working, Navarro can dispatch a work order to a field crew in the area to replace the node. By using a connected mobile device field crews have all the information at their fingertips and can complete the work order in the field and move on to the next task, without going back to the office to complete paper- work or pick up the next job.

“As time went on, we wanted to have the ability to have a ‘follow up’ feature as some meter work requires customer service staff to make other changes. For instance, if a house is knocked down and a new rebuild takes place, the resident may request a larger water service line, which then requires a different meter. These meters tend to be closer to the curb, which can lead to cars parking on top of the meters, so we need to make further adjustments. The Sedaru staff were able to add a ‘follow up’ feature quite easily and are very supportive in customizing features to improve workflow,” said Navarro.

Today field crews can look at Sedaru and see the whole day’s work ahead. They can take the right tools and people to get the job done. If a new work order gets placed in priority, they can instantly see it and go straight to the site. Prior to this crews would come all the way back to the office once they completed a task. “Being a small community, we really value quick response times and our residents expect that high level of service, so anything we can do to improve efficiency makes everyone happier, especially the staff,” said Peter Martinez, the General Manager for Channel Islands Beach Community Services District.

Final Thoughts

Moving from paper to digital has meant that the District is in a new phase of capturing information. In the last two years of deploying the new platform, the District has gathered a wealth of information that will be easily transferable to new hires. Martinez will be able to show the enormous amount of work that is done daily and the positive impact that is realized by this small community that literally has its finger on the pulse of every piece of infrastructure.

“The days of being subjective and shooting from the hip are over. The new platform has changed us from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. In another 10 months or so, we will have a baseline of data to be able to set clear goals and measure performance,” concluded Martinez.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Trent and his team help utilities become more proactive and improve operations, maintenance, and asset management with digital solutions
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