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City officials hope new software will help address water system challenges

MWH Soft dynamic nodeling software is introduced at Tuesday's city council meeting

by: KEVIN GABOURY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Public Works Services employee Jan Dobson works on the city's telemetry system, which provides up-to-date information on the city's wells.  The City of Prineville Public Works Department recently updated the software used to monitor the city's infrastructure.

City of Prineville Public Works is making significant improvements to Prineville's water and sewer infrastructure and the new system will help officials to better understand fluctuations in the city's water supply and the amount of strain experienced by sewage pipes.
   City Engineer Eric Klann and Superintendent of Public Works Jerry Brummer gave a presentation at Tuesday's city council meeting describing the recent update to MWH Soft dynamic modeling software, which will allow for a better understanding the city's water and sewer infrastructure.
   "What it does is it models all of our wells, storage tanks and pipes," Klann said in an interview. "That helps us to understand what happens when we have, say, a fire situation, and how quickly we can bounce back in a situation like that."
   The sewer model, on the other hand, will help city staff to determine what the pipes pipes are experiencing in the field. With more homes being added to the pipes, they become overwhelmed, Klann said, so the new system will record up-to-date details about the pipes.
   The City of Prineville's water and sewer infrastructure is a highly complex and efficient system made up of 42 miles of distribution mains, 10 wells and five storage tanks. The new airport well, expected to be online in June of 2008, will add even more capacity to the system.
   The old water and sewer models, installed by ACE engineering in 2005 for the master plan update, were outdated, difficult to operate, and used a basic "steady state" model, which could only provide a "snapshot in time" of what was happening in the field, Klann explained. An update was essential to keep up with the constantly growing infrastructure.
   The new software is a huge improvement because it dynamically models the city's infrastructure, rather than the "snapshot" model used by the old system.
   "By being dynamic, it helps us understand how we can bounce back from a high-usage demand," Klann said. "It's actually what we see in the real world."
   Total cost of the new software was $10,000 and it was installed about a month ago, Klann said. The data collected from the MWH Soft model are stored in an Arc GIS database at public works, which allows the entire infrastructure to be mapped spatially.
   The engineer hopes the new system will open the door to increased modernization of public works.
   "By doing this now, we're going down the right path so that someday, all of this information stored in the Arc GIS database will be able to be retrieved off a laptop when we're out in the field," he said. "We're not sure when that will be, but this will enable us to someday have that possibility."
   Aside from the new software, public works staff are working on a solution for infiltration and inflow, in which ground water seeps into the aging sewer lines. This has become a problem in the low-lying areas of the city.
   "Many of our sewer pipes are concrete pipes that were built in the 30s and 40s," Klann said. "Those concrete pipes have a joint every three feet, and as they wear out, those joints start to leak and the pipe becomes really rough."
   To rehabilitate these old pipes, rather than completely replace them, public works staff use a method called "sliplining," in which the inside of the leaky pipes are coated with plastic. This process seals the leaks and makes the pipes smoother so more material can flow through them. Public works officials plan to slipline around 1,000 feet of Prineville's worst sewer lines per year, and doing this will prevent groundwater from entering the sewage treatment plant, ultimately resulting in a longer life for the facility.