Alexandrina Council Gains Visibility into Wastewater Data and Reduces Risk for Customers by Using SpiralData on AWS

Executive Summary

AWS Partner SpiralData helped Alexandrina Council use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to gain deeper visibility into wastewater data, identify rainfall ingress with 100 percent accuracy, increase sewer end of line vacuum pressure by 20 percent, and optimize its operations. The council uses SpiralData’s AWS-based data analysis and machine learning solutions to analyse data, optimize valve settings, and identify air leaks in valves.

Alexandrina Council gains visibility into wastewater data with SpiralData on AWS

Wanting to Do More with Wastewater Data

Alexandrina Council, a local government area in the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island region of South Australia, manages the region’s third-largest wastewater network. The council’s wastewater utility is responsible for collecting, treating, storing, and disposing of treated wastewater through an infrastructure serving approximately 10,000 customers across five regional townships.

The council relies on a field team of just six people to manage the highly complex wastewater operational environment. As the region grew, the council realized it was limited by technology and a lack of data insight. This led to a reactive environment with decreased service quality because problems were identified after the fact. “We had a lack of visibility across the entire system, and we didn’t have data-driven information to make good operational and strategic decisions,” says Colin Shackleford, water project officer at Alexandrina Council.

The council’s challenges became more pronounced in 2021, when the organization acquired a vacuum sewer—a pneumatic sewer system that transports sewage to a treatment plant. The sewer system had aging infrastructure and no network processing monitoring. As a result, flooded lines, rainfall ingress into pipes, and valve malfunctions were frequent. “We took over a system that was run down, and it wasn’t efficient as we weren’t getting enough vacuum pressure at the end of the line because of flooding,” says Gary Lyons, manager of sustainable resources at Alexandrina Council.

Additionally, the sewer treatment plant is located in the Coorong, Lower Lakes, and Murray Mouth region, an environmentally significant area. One of Australia’s most important wetland areas, the region is home to about half of the total number of fish species found in the Murray-Darling Basin. Because of its environmental significance, the region was designated as a Wetland of International Importance in 1985. “We’re at the exit point of the Murray-Darling Basin, where it meets the ocean. It’s a pristine environment, and we have to be careful as it’s an environmentally sensitive area,” says Lyons.

Although the council had implemented Internet of Things (IoT) sensors throughout the vacuum system, it still needed to gain better visibility and drive efficiencies. “We were taking on an additional 15 percent of our network with minimum staffing. We really needed an overall integrated data strategy to solve our problems,” Lyons says.

"With the SpiralData solution on AWS, we have access ­to wastewater data we didn’t have before, and this is helping us transform from being reactive to proactive ­using analytics."

- Colin Shackleford, Water Project Officer, Alexandrina Council

Implementing Data-Driven SpiralData Solutions on AWS

Alexandrina Council engaged SpiralData, a data analytics company and AWS Partner, to help optimize the council’s wastewater environment. SpiralData worked closely with the council to design a strategy based on agile principles to quickly move through feasibility studies and problem backlogs.

Following this process, SpiralData implemented a data lake based on AWS services including AWS IoT Core, Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, and Amazon DynamoDB. The data lake automatically ingests, processes, and stores IoT data from the council’s wastewater systems. “The data lake was foundational in terms of enabling data-based decisions across all systems for Alexandrina Council,” says Kale Needham, chief executive officer of SpiralData.

SpiralData then led Alexandrina Council through three technology sprints. In the first sprint, SpiralData deployed an algorithm to identify sewer pits that have rainfall ingress. The solution runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and uses Amazon OpenSearch Service for fast access to large volumes of IoT data. Using this solution, the council can visualize rainfall effects on sewer valve activity, including changes in intensity. In the second sprint, SpiralData built a model for optimizing sewer valve settings. The model uses AWS Elastic Beanstalk for scaling web applications that can define the relationship of vacuum pressure reduction along sewer lines.

In the final sprint, SpiralData created a machine learning (ML) model based on Amazon SageMaker that identifies air leaks in valves, implementing mechanisms to measure vacuum loss in valves and accurately and reliably detect flow across a valve.

Being More Proactive by Increasing Wastewater System Visibility

With its SpiralData solutions, Alexandrina Council has clearer visibility into all its wastewater systems, including the new vacuum sewer. This visibility gives the council the ability to proactively monitor its networks and identify problems before they arise. For example, with its rainfall correlation algorithm, the council can identify rainfall seeping into pipes with 100 percent accuracy. Over time, this will result in a complete reduction in ingress that will decrease operational expenses, increase asset efficiency, and improve customer service. “With the SpiralData solution on AWS, we have access to wastewater data we didn’t have before, and this is helping us transform from being reactive to proactive using analytics,” says Shackleford. “We will be able to easily identify previously undetected occurrences across our systems.”

The council has already detected anomalies by using SpiralData IoT applications to discover a specific residence where running water had led to 15,000 litres disappearing through the wastewater system each day.

Driving Efficiency, Reducing Risk, and Controlling Environmental Impact

Alexandrina Council is using its SpiralData solutions to optimize valve settings, which has led to a 20 percent increase in end of line vacuum pressure. This will help the council drive efficiency in the entire vacuum system. “Alexandrina Council was also able to use our AI/ML workbench to show that our isolation sewer valves had integrity and didn’t need to be dug up and replaced, which will help save money in the long run,” says Needham. The council has also increased efficiency for its six-person wastewater utility staff, helping the council absorb 25 percent more infrastructure without needing to expand the workforce.

By optimizing operations, Alexandrina Council is reducing risk. “Through valve optimization, we have significantly reduced flooded sewer pits and lines,” says Lyons. “By decreasing this, we reduce potential overflows within the system, which is both a human safety and environmental issue. Ultimately, this will help us provide more reliable and sustainable wastewater services to our customers.”

Alexandrina Council

About the Alexandrina Council

Alexandrina Council is a local government area serving South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island region. The council serves more than 25,000 people in five wards: Nangkita Kuitpo, Angas Bremer, Port Elliot Middleton, Strathalbyn, and Goolwa Hindmarsh Island.

About SpiralData

SpiralData, based in Australia, is a data analytics company that provides AI, ML, and big data solutions. Through a team of data scientists, the company works closely with clients in utilities, water, food, and defense with complex processes and critical assets.

Published December 2022