Report 1

Water Corporation: Management of Water Pipes

Gaps in asset and performance information reduces the reliability of pipe replacement decisions

The age of some older pipes is uncertain because they cannot be easily checked back to their original records

A quarter of all records of pipes in the Water Corporation’s spatial information system lack references to original records, making any verification of their age difficult and time consuming. The lack of accurate information of this sort has affected the reliability of the Water Corporation’s risk based approach to pipe replacement.

In April 2013, a cast iron pipe in Wellington Street in the Perth CBD burst three times in one week. Investigations found the pipe installation date recorded in the Water Corporation’s spatial information system was incorrect. The Facilities Mapping System (FMS) is the Water Corporation’s primary source of information about the age of pipes. The installation date for the burst pipe recorded in FMS was 1946. However, investigation after the burst in April 2013 revealed that 1946 was the year that the pipe was refurbished with cement lining. The original installation date was between 1889 and 1906.

There are 41.2 kilometres of cast iron water pipes in the Perth CBD. A data quality review triggered by the Wellington Street incidents found these pipes were in excess of 100 years old rather than the 60 to 70 year range recorded in the FMS. The Water Corporation has since verified the age information for all cast iron pipes in the Perth CBD and now plans to undertake data quality reviews for similar aged pipes in Fremantle, Guildford, Northbridge and Victoria Park.

The data quality review carried out by the Water Corporation as part of investigations after the Wellington Street incidents involved verifying the age of pipes by checking back to the original pipe construction drawings and survey field books. Reference numbers to the original drawings and field books are contained in FMS. But not all ‘pipe object’ records have reference numbers. Twenty-five per cent of 130 015 pipe object records in FMS do not have drawings or field book reference numbers. Almost one third of these records were in the Goldfields and Agricultural region. Eighty-six per cent relate to reticulation pipes across the state.

Verifying the age of pipes that do not have references in FMS to construction drawings and survey field books make determining the age of pipes difficult and time consuming.

Information about the location and cause of leaks and bursts is not complete because it is not gathered effectively

Information is not gathered effectively about the specific location of leaks and bursts or the cause of larger leaks and bursts. This limits the analysis that can be done to identify trends or risks in other locations.

Field teams responding to leaks and bursts can record in the Water Corporation’s asset and operational management system where on the pipe the leak or burst occurred. The location is automatically recorded using mobile technology. This information is important in assessing pipe condition and where relevant prioritising pipes for replacement. But recording the location is not mandatory. Also, there are limitations with some older mobile technology used in the field including their battery life, which inhibit the ability to automatically record the location of leaks and bursts. The older mobile technology is being updated.

We found the specific location of leaks and bursts was often not recorded in three regions, but particularly in the Goldfields and Agricultural region (Table 5). Due to limitations with the older mobile technology, field staff in the Goldfields and Agricultural region have to record the location of the leak or burst by referring to the distance to and from known location markers on the pipe.

Table 5: Automated fault location positions recorded on maintenance work orders in the Systems, Applications and Products Plant Maintenance module in the Goldfields and Agricultural, Metropolitan and North West regions from January 2013 to September 2013

Water Corporation’s procedures require that information about leaks and bursts that are considered ‘major’ or ‘significant’ events should be recorded in its Incident Management System (IMS). We found information was not being recorded in IMS within 48 hours of the date of incident as required for over half of the 71 major and significant incident records we reviewed between January 2007 and July 2013. Entering information in IMS in a timely way enables greater visibility of the incident and any follow up actions across the Water Corporation.

We also found the general level of detail contained in the records about the incidents was variable. Most recorded incidents contained some detail about the impact of the incident but almost three quarters contained no analysis of the cause or any lessons learnt.

We also examined records of two high profile burst pipes in 2013 (Table 6). One was classified as a ‘significant’ incident and was part of the IMS records we examined. The other was classified as a ‘minor’ incident. A lack of information recorded in IMS about these incidents meant that we could not match the Water Corporation’s criteria to the rating given for these incidents. This meant it was difficult to tell from IMS whether the Water Corporation responded to these incidents appropriately.

Table 6 Incident Management Systems records of burst water pipes in the Perth CBD and Beaconsfield in 2013

Age, condition and performance information is not well linked in IT systems making some information difficult to access

There is a lack of connectivity between important asset, condition and performance information within the Water Corporation’s key systems. Although information within each system can be used to manually link data, tracing the required data is time consuming and risks introducing inaccuracies.

Information about the location of leaks and bursts in Systems, Applications and Products Plant Maintenance (SAP PM) is not automatically linked to spatial information in FMS or incident information in IMS. The specific location of a leak or burst on a pipe contained in work orders in the SAP PM module is not recorded or automatically linked against the location of the relevant pipe record in FMS. Because there is no automated link between these systems, identifying the specific location of leaks and bursts on pipe objects in FMS is time consuming. It is also potentially inaccurate as it requires manually plotting the information in SAP PM to records in FMS.

There is also no connectivity between information about leaks and bursts in SAP PM and information about leaks and bursts when they become larger incidents recorded in IMS. Any incident recorded in IMS and required maintenance work orders are generated and recorded separately in SAP PM.

Other important condition or performance information about pipes in the Water Corporation’s document management system is not automatically linked to FMS or SAP PM. The physical condition of assets is stored in the Asset Condition Assessment (ACA) system. When issues about the condition of pipes are identified and are not resolved through repairs, reports may be prepared through the ACA system. This information is generally stored in the document management system. Information about leakage is in reports prepared by leak detection personnel and also stored in the document management system. Having no connectivity between these systems means accessing the appropriate condition and performance information about pipes can be time consuming and could contribute to errors.

Water Corporation recognises the need to improve some of its asset information but needs to review its key information gaps

The Water Corporation recognises the unreliability of some of its information about water pipes especially for older pipes. It acknowledges a need to improve the quality of its asset information about the location of leaks and bursts. But it is not clear that the key information gaps identified in this report will be specifically addressed in the Water Corporation’s current improvement initiatives.

The Water Corporation’s Strategic Asset Management Plan 2012-13 to 2032-33 identifies improving data quality as a high priority. Water Corporation’s Data Improvement Plan Business Case For Asset Renewals identifies data gaps and a range of improvement initiatives important for replacement planning and investment.

The Water Corporation has a number of initiatives to improve the accuracy of its information. It has recently begun an asset data review to address data quality issues across a range of its areas including asset management. This work needs to specifically review the completeness and linking of important pipe age, condition and performance information across its key IT systems and how this information could be better captured, accessed and disseminated.

Back to Top