09.12.2015 : Dan Stevens

Hydraulic modelling essential to the NZ Infrastructure Plan

If we are to provide an adequate response to the challenges presented in the New Zealand Thirty Year Infrastructure Plan 2015, hydraulic modelling will be an invaluable tool which we simply cannot afford to leave in the box.

In July 2015 the New Zealand Government released the New Zealand Thirty Year Infrastructure Plan 2015. The Plan describes the scale of the challenge facing New Zealand’s Territorial Authorities and is effectively a 'call to action' which we cannot afford to ignore.

It is clear that over the next thirty years some of our regions will grow and others will shrink, with each scenario presenting a different set of challenges for our utilities engineers and financial planners. Our growing economy will create some significant infrastructure pinch-points requiring considerable public and private investment. The plan also indicates a $45.2 billion total replacement value of the three waters assets, with a number of aging infrastructure networks that will need renewing at the same time as new assets are required to overcome the growth driven pinch points.

On the plus side, technology is driving change everywhere, and this is certainly reflected in ongoing advances in hydraulic modelling, an advanced asset management tool that I believe will inevitably play an essential role if we are to successfully overcome the challenges outlined above.

International experience clearly demonstrates that when hydraulic modelling is used to support and guide three waters infrastructure investment it:

  • significantly improves confidence in investment decisions
  • demonstrates financial transparency and supports optimised decision-making
  • is a powerful visual communication tool that helps the engineer 'tell the story', and
  • represents an excellent return on investment, often resulting in significant savings, in some cases many times the amount invested in the model development.

A perfect example of how modelling can be at the core of good decision-making and strategic investment is the highly acclaimed Dunedin Three Waters Strategy Project. Laura McElhone, Group Manager Water and Waste at Dunedin City Council commented:

"The project represented a key turning point in the journey towards sustainable infrastructure development for the Dunedin City Council. It has provided both immediate and long-term benefits to Dunedin’s community and has positioned the Council strongly to meet the challenges outlined in the New Zealand Thirty Year Infrastructure Plan 2015. Hydraulic modelling played a key role throughout the project providing the platform for sound and informed decision-making, and it continues to support our short and long-term capital works planning and our on-going pursuit of optimal operational efficiency.”

In addition to supporting our engineers and planners with strategic planning and investment decisions, we are now seeing the evolution of modelling from just the planning environment into the control room. Models are now starting to take their place at the heart of ‘Intelligent Networks’, bringing the ability to monitor and model system performance in real-time, predict future events based on historical data and to make informed and optimised decisions and plan appropriate responses.

If we are to provide an adequate response to the challenges presented in the New Zealand Thirty Year Infrastructure Plan 2015, hydraulic modelling will be an invaluable tool which we simply cannot afford to leave in the box.

About the Author

Dan Stevens

Business Director - Water

Dan is a Principal Environmental Engineer with over 31 years’ experience mostly in the water industry. He is a regular speaker at national and international conferences and is recognised internationally for his work in advanced asset management and hydraulic modelling. He has extensive experience leading multi-disciplinary teams on strategic asset planning projects and is also a Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Water and Environmental Manager.

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