PWSA maximizes asset data collection efforts

Bradley M. Boddy, P.E.
Project Engineer
Wade Trim
Pittsburgh, Pennylsvania

Developing and maintaining records of capital assets helps communities effectively manage their infrastructure systems. Asset data collection efforts are an integral part of large rehabilitation and improvement programs. They may also be required for compliance with Government Accounting Standards Board Statement 34 (GASB 34) and capacity, management, operation and maintenance (CMOM) approaches that are included in many Administrative Consent Orders (ACO).

When the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) began their wet weather control program, they knew significant activities would be required to document their collection system assets. Determining the best way to manage this large volume of data was critical to meeting their project goals and creating a system that could accommodate future activities.

PWSA's project team evaluated a variety of information system platforms (ISP) including Access databases, GIS applications and commercially-available software. Careful consideration was given to the following:

  • Existing asset management platform
  • Type of data to be managed
  • How asset information will be used
  • Who needs access to data
  • Compatibility with other platforms

Access databases or GIS applications would have required significant customization. InfoNet, by Wallingford Software, was selected because it already contained many of the tools required to meet project objectives. This allowed the project team to quickly implement the ISP since development of customized fields was not required.

Existing asset management platforms
PWSA's asset data existed in several formats. The majority of information was contained on record drawings and in construction field calculation books. Their existing mapping was in an AutoCad format with asset information linked to manholes and sewer lines in portions of the system. A nomenclature had been developed for naming manholes based on a grid system.

To build upon their existing mapping and manhole nomenclature, PWSA imported their data into InfoNet to form the base of their asset management platform. Before the data was imported, each manhole was given a unique name and all pipes were verified to be physically connected to their manholes.

Data management
The main purpose of PWSA's ISP is to manage the data collected as part of their wet weather control plan. Data collection included record drawing review, manhole inspection, survey of manhole locations and elevations, CCTV, and flow monitoring. Even though data collection focused only on major trunk lines, the data management platform had to be capable of managing assets of the entire system.

InfoNet allows asset information to be tracked separately from field surveys. It also can store multiple surveys of the same asset so conditions of that asset can be tracked over time. It was important to ensure that the data management platform met current needs and could integrate a variety of data collected during future projects.

Data uses
PWSA wanted an ISP to manage the data collected for their wet weather control plan and to create a hydraulic/hydrologic model of their system. Their plan called for the inspection and survey of 4,000 manholes, 40 miles of CCTV, and review of existing record drawings. PWSA also wanted to use this platform to track future activities that would be part of an ACO with state regulatory agencies. Their platform had to be flexible enough to manage other types of data as well as assist with routine reporting required by regulatory agencies.

InfoNet contains many features to assist PWSA in the development of a model and COA tracking such as:

  • Graphical user interface for plan, profile and isometric views of the collection system
  • Version-tracking/audit-trail tools to document database development
  • Error-checking/network validation tools
  • Inference tools to fill missing data gaps
  • Direct transfer of model data to hydraulic/hydrologic model
  • Data fields to manage all data that would be collected during the wet weather control project as well as data collected to meet ACO requirements
  • Strong query functionality

Information users
With two consultant teams developing the wet weather control plan, PWSA's ISP had to be configured with a multiple-user interface. The standard version of InfoNet allows multiple users to access and edit data while maintaining an audit trail of the changes. Its user-friendly design easily accommodates part-time users as well. The project team and PWSA departments access and revise information as multiple projects progress. This allows PWSA to review inspection reports to determine what rehabilitation, if any, is required while additional surveys are being incorporated into InfoNet.

Compatibility with other data formats and accessibility to asset data were important to PWSA. Some of their departments were using ArcGIS while others were interested in updated plat maps. The project team needed to be able to place the asset information into a hydraulic/hydrologic model. InfoNet provided great flexibility allowing data to be imported and exported from text files, shapefiles and databases. This has allowed PWSA to use InfoNet as their main asset management tool and export the information to whatever format is needed by different departments.

Communities considering a data collection program should develop an ISP to maximize the benefits of their efforts. While some communities may feel that a platform is not necessary since they are only collecting data in a small area, this approach produces a hodge-podge of incompatible data formats over time. An ISP that is selected to meet the current and future needs of the community will allow it to develop a comprehensive understanding of their assets project by project. Selecting an ISP that contains a multi-user interface and is easy to use will enable engineering, planning, and construction department staff to share and utilize system data collected by all departments.

Bradley M. Boddy, P.E., can be reached at (412) 454-5566 or