GIS Helps Maintain Quality Standards for Belgium Water Company

By Jim Baumann

GIS Helps Maintain Quality Standards for Belgium Water Company

With 70 percent of the earth covered with water, we occupy a unique position in our solar system where only minor amounts of this life sustaining substance have been thus far detected on our neighboring planets.

However, 97 percent of the 1.4 billion cubic kilometres of the water on our planet consists of sea water and more than 2 percent is ice. The vast majority of the remaining 1 percent of this fundamental resource is located at either great depths in the earth or is heavily polluted. This means that merely 0.003% of all of the water on the planet is immediately potable.

The Provinciale en Intercommunale Drinkwatermaatschappij der Provincie Antwerpen (Pidpa) is a water supplier headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium dedicated to providing superior quality drinking water to its more than 1 million customers within its 1,000 square mile service area.

The Pidpa service area is rich in aquifers from which it extracts groundwater for a carefully monitored purification process prior to release into its distribution network and subsequent consumption. The company's water system network includes 25 water production centers, 62 water towers, and 7,460 miles of water mains, which produce about 16.6 billion gallons of water per year.

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Pidpa approaches the production and distribution of drinking water throughout the Antwerp Province with unswerving attention. Established 90 years ago, Pidpa demonstrates its belief in its motto "Water is Life" through its day-to-day business activities and its continual striving to improve the quality of service to its customers.

Pidpa's first GIS was implemented more than 10 years ago to maintain its water system network. While useful, the GIS never achieved the company's long range goal of a corporate-wide system, due to various technical reasons. About 4 years ago, the company decided to replace its existing system and, after an exhaustive review process, chose a new system based on ESRI's GIS software products.

A key factor in their choice was the fact that the ESRI GIS solution is based on open system architecture and well-established industry standards. Pidpa was also impressed with ESRI's commitment to the European utility market.

Pidpa's corporate GIS includes ESRI's ArcSDE for database management, the ArcGIS product family, including ArcInfo and ArcView, and Miner & Miner's ArcFM, which provides specialized GIS tools tailored for the water utility industry.

The primary function of the GIS is the maintenance and management of Pidpa's distribution network. Part of the project includes the scanning and ongoing conversion of analog maps, as well as the conversion of CARDIB topographic data and IBM GFIS data with the aim to build a seamless hybrid database. In addition, 90,000 synoptic sketches have been scanned and are linked to the new database. Integration with the company's AutoCAD environment and customer information system (CIS) is in its first phase.

Comments Eddy Huyghe, President of Pidpa, "Our company-wide GIS allows us a much better exchange of information and decisionmaking between our corporate and technical sections.

"We will continue to expand its use and in the future, GIS will be used for work order assignments, maintenance, and we plan to further connect it with our CIS."
A significant part of Pidpa's GIS implementation effort was the development of its water distribution data model. More than a year in development, the model is rich in features particular to the European market.

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Comments René Horemans, GIS Project Manager at Pidpa, "A key factor for us in the implementation of our GIS was the development by ESRI of the water distribution data model. It is now included as a standard part of ESRI's GIS solution for the water industry. Since it is standard software, it doesn't require re-customization with each successive release of the core software, which saves us a great deal of time and allows us to develop our own applications more efficiently."

Since service is a key component of Pidpa's business efforts, Huyghe sees GIS helping improve the efforts of its customer service department in the future. "GIS can help us quickly determine the location of a fault in our system, such as a ruptured main, and create a list of those customers that will be affected by the disruption in service. We can then quickly notify the customers on the list and inform them of our repair and maintenance schedule."

Pidpa has a number of plans for expanding the use of its GIS. One is to integrate it with its SAP installation. Continues Huyghe, "We have several SAP modules up and running that provide us with a vast database of logistics, financial, and human resource information. We would like to link and integrate the GIS and SAP systems on different levels. Sharing data between these two environments and optimizing workflow over the boundaries of information systems so that users can easily get to the data they need in a user-friendly environment, is a major goal for us in the future."

Making use of hand-held devices for both viewing data and entering data from the field is also planned, which will allow Pidpa to perform maintenance work more quickly, as well as expedite the updating process of its database.

"Using GIS data with an advanced hydraulic modeling software is another one of our more ambitious goals for the near future," concludes Horemans. "We would also like to move the results from the analyses and simulations from the modeling software back into the GIS, so a seamless integration of data between the two systems is our ultimate goal."

Published Friday, January 16th, 2004

Written by Jim Baumann

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