New industry models to simplify water pipeline data

New industry models to simplify water pipeline data

Xylem and PODS create first-of-a-kind industry data models to help organize and communicate utility pipeline assessment data.

Around 126 billion cubic meters of treated water is lost every year globally, largely due to aging and broken infrastructure, intensifying water scarcity and driving water prices higher. The growing problem of water loss (or non-revenue water) is putting more pressure on water utilities to assess their pipeline networks to identify leaks and other problem areas.

Digital tools are making it easier for utilities to gather key utility pipeline information and make targeted repairs, saving time, money and disruption to communities. But digital transformation also presents a new challenge – how to effectively organize and communicate utility data and turn it into actionable insights.

Advanced solutions like Xylem Vue powered by GoAigua – a unique, vendor-agnostic platform that utilities can use to capture data from any source, regardless of manufacturer – helps utilities eliminate silos of information and unlock the true value of their data. Another tool to complement these solutions and help combat data deluge are industry data models for pipeline data management, which can help guide pipeline inspection vendors on how to better manage and communicate their utility clients’ data to help them make the most of it.

Bringing innovative data models to water

Xylem worked with the Pipeline Open Data Standard Association (PODS) to create first-of-their-kind industry data models for transmission pipeline data management in the water space. Joann Ren, Xylem Data Solution Architect, led the effort for Xylem’s Data Lake and Assessment Services teams.

“As the industry standard for pipeline data management, the PODS Association is thrilled to see the PODS data model extended to managing water resources in order to leverage the benefits of both the standard pipeline data model and the PODS community,” says Todd Patterson, PODS Board President.

“PODS data models will take Xylem’s water pipeline inspections to the next level for our customers by strengthening data integrity, making data more accessible, and implementing robust data management measures,” says Ren.

Making Waves asked Ren, who sits on several committees with PODS, to explain the significance of the data models for the water industry and how they work:

Q: Why are industry pipeline data management models needed for water?

There’s been an organic evolution of different IT systems, as well as different data structures, across the water sector over the years. This complexity makes it difficult for utilities to gain a full picture of how their water systems are performing and realize the full potential of digital-powered tools and solutions. As the amount of pipeline inspection data grows, Xylem is constantly looking for new ways to organize and optimize the way we manage customer pipeline data so we can keep improving pipeline inspections for our utility clients. One way we do this is by exploring best practices from across sectors, which led to our exciting partnership with PODS.

Q: Tell us more about PODS.

The PODS association is a non-profit, member-led group that provides the widely recognized data model standard for managing spatial data in natural gas, renewables and hazardous liquids. Over the last 26 years, PODS models have been adopted by 200+ pipeline operators in 39 countries, as well as service providers, vendors and regulatory agencies across those sectors, helping to increase pipeline integrity, safety and performance. When I first approached PODS two years ago, I learned the data model standards had not yet been adapted for the water sector. We saw the huge value that PODS could provide, and we asked them to partner with us to bring a PODS data model for water pipelines to life.

Q: How does PODS work?

The association provides innovative data models or structures that inform how pipeline data is connected, related and stored for a particular sector. These models can be used by pipeline inspection vendors to organize and manage utility data, as well as communicate data to foster information-sharing and collaboration. The PODS models are a real catalyst for creating value because the more effectively and efficiently vendors can organize and manage their utility clients’ pipeline data, the more meaningful insights they can provide to them. To be clear, these industry data models can’t replace the transformative value of utilities adopting digital platforms that comprehensively integrate and optimize data management. However, they are another important tool to help vendors help utilities draw more value from their data through data organization and governance.

Q: How did you approach adapting PODS data models for the water sector?

We worked closely with the PODS team to take their existing data structures and adapt and evolve them to be applicable to water. The models we created allow for all different kinds of pipeline data to be incorporated, encompassing pipeline assets, their characteristics, alignment, repairs, inspection records and analytical insights. One challenge we wanted to solve was to make sure the data models could manage large volumes of data, since water utilities often have vast pipeline networks. PODS data models for water are groundbreaking for the sector because of their linear referencing, which makes this possible. Pipeline inspection vendors are expected to be the industry first movers in adopting PODS, since we handle massive amounts of pipeline data every day. In the future, as the data models become more commonly used, larger utilities, tech-forward utilities and other water stakeholders may also look to adopt them to support a digital twin and an enterprise utility network.

Q: How will PODS data models benefit Xylem’s customers?

We’re proud to lead the way in bringing PODS to the water sector – it’s part of our commitment to innovate and advance pipeline assessments for our customers. Utilizing these data models enables us to streamline and modernize the assessment delivery process, enhancing reporting speed and accuracy, while also unlocking the potential to collect or mine additional data. This enables us to provide increased value to our utility customers, so they can better serve their communities.

PODS Perspective

Monique Roberts, Executive Director of PODS Association, shares expert insights on the importance of launching PODS for the water sector.

Now more than ever, visibility and optimization of in-ground assets like pipelines are vital to making pipeline management and operations safer, cost-effective and more sustainable.  

Currently, water assets are not federally regulated but rather regulated via each state. There has not been a standard data model for water pipelines similar to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) regulation of transmission oil and gas pipelines. This lack of regulation and standardized reporting in the water industry has historically led to a lack of standardization in how data is managed – a huge missed opportunity. However, the shift towards digital asset knowledge management is creating a much sharper focus on data management and data governance.

We believe that data governance and digital transparency of assets in the field is crucial for all sectors, including water. It’s paramount for utilities to know where their pipelines are, the state of their operations, and what’s around their pipelines in order to operate them safely. Helping vendors and their utility clients visualize the massive amounts of data associated with these long linear assets for compliance and safe operations is a key part of our mission at PODS. It’s also a vital way for utilities to optimize their in-ground assets and build new pipelines with the least possible carbon footprint.

We’re expecting advanced release of a new Water Data Model Standard for review and testing as early as October 2024. This will be invaluable for water professionals in all aspects of the water sector, accelerating water data standardization and digital transparency in water communities worldwide. PODS for water is a major step forward for pipeline assessment in the water sector, and we’re proud to partner with Xylem to bring these innovative data standards to the water pipeline world. 

Learn more about Xylem Assessment Services.