Terrebonne Parrish Consolidated Water Louisiana

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Case Study - Terrebonne Parrish Consolidated Water Louisiana

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The Louisiana parish of Terrebonne (French for “good earth”) boasts a population of 111,860 and the state’s second largest total land area. In the heart of bayou country is the parish seat, the City of Houma, home to Consolidated Waterworks District No. 1 of Terrebonne Parish, which serves approximately 42,000 accounts. What began as a potable water system for Houma in 1902 and rural parish water districts established in 1953 were all combined to form the Consolidated District in the mid-1990s.

For decades, utility personnel had performed most functions, including field asset location and maintenance work orders, using paper and pencil. The District GIS manager, Mary Trahan, was searching for a way to provide field personnel access to the maps they needed without having to come back to the office. “We had a stack of maps and a whole shelf full of books with all the valve locations,” she said. In 2012, she found the answer she’d been looking for at her first Esri® conference in San Diego. She was impressed with the presenters from IDModeling, Inc., who introduced the crowd to its flagship software, Sedaru®. “They offered a product that could combine our GIS data with our AS/400 customer data with our hydraulic modeling data and [information from] our SCADA system,” Trahan said.

With the enthusiastic approval of the utility’s new general manager, Michael Sobert, Trahan called IDModeling in August 2012, and the District signed a contract in November to begin implementation of Sedaru. On the first weekend after installing the software, Trahan was summoned to help find valves that needed to be shut off because of a mainline leak in Houma. She and Sobert had Sedaru on their iPads and communicated with each other to assist the crews, who did not yet have their own iPads. After being able to direct them to the exact source of the leak, Sobert has yet to be seen without his iPad.

As personnel have gained access to Sedaru, “it’s been simple to use, especially for our field service crews,” Trahan said. “Although at first, they were afraid that it would be used to ‘watch their every move’, now they understand that Sedaru gives them the tools they need to make their jobs easier. Within a week of being handed their iPads, they were loving it – even some of our older guys, which surprised me.”

LOCATING ASSETS, SHARING DATA
Locating valves and water lines has never been easier, said Trahan. “Prior to Sedaru, our locate crews mainly used water features in the field to locate main lines. They would look for fire hydrants to know what side of the road to look on, then look for a meter box to get a general location to start pushing the probe. If they couldn’t hit the line then they would come in for a map. Oftentimes, they went from memory.

“Now,” Trahan laughed, “one of our field guys calls in and says, ‘That blue dot – is that where I’m at? When I’m standing on the blue dot, that’s where the water line’s at?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, pretty close. Now just use your probe.’”

Prior to Sedaru, Trahan would often be called from one end of the parish to the other. “We had 15 to 20 route maps, with a book for each that had several hundred valve location sheets. You can’t carry all that around with you. And now they’re all in my hand.”

Traditionally, locate notices had been sent via a dedicated fax machine, one per page, with the physical pages then sorted and delivered to the locate foreman for that area. The foreman would lay out the paperwork and order the route before leaving the office. “I estimate the District could save ten minutes in labor per task per day with the tasks routed through Sedaru,” Trahan said. “We have three locate crews (six people, with two on each truck) that complete an average of twenty locates per day, each taking about fifteen minutes. [Through Sedaru,] the District would also realize fuel savings through routing.”

Sedaru allows Consolidated District No. 1 to prioritize work orders and field operations. “It gives us the ability to know instantly what needs to be done at a location – so if it can wait, it waits; if it’s something that needs to be addressed right now, then we send someone.”

The District’s valve crew is the first of its maintenance crews to use Sedaru. The crew has been using it for several months to find valves to turn off to make repairs, to locate mains to tap for new services and to learn the diameter and material of the pipe. Now when returning to a valve whose coordinates have been GPS mapped, the crew records the information in Sedaru and it is transferred to the GIS system. That data is shared with management in the form of reports for budgeting and project development.

“As the keeper of our paper maps for the last 30 years and our GIS system for the last 15 years, I realized I didn’t have to print valve detail sheets for them daily,” enthused Trahan. “Not to mention the savings on paper and ink. I don’t just give out information anymore – I finally get some back from the field.”

CLEAR WATER QUALITY BENEFITS FOR LAB TESTING
While Sedaru is making a difference in the field, Trahan is excited about its benefits in the lab: “Our lab personnel can check at certain devices with no addresses. Now we know exactly which one we are at. Testing at the same location is much easier.”

She added, “I want to be able to have access to lab in a different location, to their database of chlorine residual and last results. At least once a year, we have to produce water monitoring plans for the state, and I’ve had to re-key in all the data. But with access to data entered from the field through Sedaru, I can create maps and reports for where we’re having water quality issues.” As Terrebonne Parish is a frequent target of tropical storms and hurricanes, Trahan anticipates that Sedaru could provide needed assists in testing water supply.

In the late summer of 2012, the brain-eating Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found in the water supply of surrounding water districts, so the State Health Department notified the Terrebonne District of new regulations requiring the maintenance of a higher chlorine residual as well as a new flushing plan. Sedaru Product Director Kevin Koshko and Water Resource Engineer Dave Harrington of IDModeling added flow information on hydrant flushing tables that IDModeling created for the District to calculate velocity as well as length of time needed to flush a hydrant to move the chlorine residual and completely turn over the water in a section of pipe.

TRUE PARTNERS IN PROGRESS
Adding functionality to address the utility’s needs is an example of how IDModeling goes beyond simply providing software – the company is a true software-as-a-service provider to its customers.  As new needs arise, the company has the experience and ability to validate those needs against business cases, demonstrate the value of new functionality (that all customers then benefit from in real-time), and deliver.  “That’s been very important to us,” said Trahan, “because the water business is forever changing.”

“It’s been a pleasure working with the Consolidated District team," said Kevin Koshko, Sedaru Product Director. "Their adoption of the technology has been mind-blowing. From being in a paper world and then having technology in their hands – and running with it like they have – I’ve never seen a utility like this. We really work well together; there’s a good synergy between us. We look at this as a partnership and we’re looking forward to continuing that.”

 “The biggest benefit we’ve gotten from Sedaru is that now all the field personnel and management have access to all our assets in the field,” said Trahan. “You can’t ask for a better tool than that.”

SOLUTIONS FEATURED

  • Construction Locates – Eliminates 10 minutes per locate as well as 5 return trips to the office to look up and clarify as-built information, for a benefit of $70k/year
  • Accidental Construction Breaks Due to Poor Locates - Cost of 4 accidental main breaks is $60k/year
  • Customer Service Work Request Clarification –5 tasks per day requiring both administrative and field personnel time equate to $60/day or $14.5k/year
  • Preparation of Customer Service Field Service Order -Completing forms to prepare for field crews with billing system data represents a cost of $125/day or $31k/year
  • Data Entry Errors – Entering task information back into AS/400 (CIS) due to lost or incomplete paperwork costs $250/day or $62k/year
  • Spatial Reference to Locate Valves for Maintenance –Valves have been GPS’d and are displayed on GIS for the mobile worker to quickly identify appropriate valve, saving $25k/year
  • Water Quality Testing – Misreads at rural hydrants without addresses can produce failed test results; the cost to address a $5,000 incident every month would be $60k/year
  • Water Quality Testing Results – Use of electronic forms and linking information to GIS to allow entire organization access
  • Engineering Documentation – By capturing data for engineering group while preforming routine maintenance activities, crews will improve effectiveness of engineering decision making