What Can a Water Model Do for Your Community?

How can water main improvements be prioritized to provide the biggest immediate improvement to the distribution system? Can enough water or pressure be provided to the new industry proposing to come to town? What is the maximum flow available from a particular hydrant in the distribution system? How can the overall reliability of the system be improved? If you have asked these questions, and the answers are not readily available, a water model may be a valuable tool for your water system.

A water model is a computer program that simulates the distribution system including pumps, storage, pressure zones, and many other common components. A water model can be used to identify the following at any location in the system:

  • System pressure
  • Maximum available hydrant flow
  • Water velocity in pipes
  • Water age (water quality)
  • Tank levels
  • Booster pump flow and pressure

Water models can be used to assist communities with many things including prioritizing water main improvements for capital improvement planning, siting a new water tower, evaluating water main improvements and their impact on the distribution system, establishing and evaluating pressure zones, creating a hydrant flushing program, improving overall fire flow availability, optimizing pump operation to reduce costs, evaluating phased improvements, and many other uses.

Many communities have benefitted from modeling their water distribution system.  Water models are useful tools to evaluate systems, but the process of gathering, reviewing, and mapping the existing system assets can be extremely valuable in consolidating distribution system information. A GIS repository can be used to create the model or can be created from the model information once the model is built.

Water models can also be used to help troubleshoot issues reducing available hydrant flow or pressure seen in a system, which are often caused by closed valves or water main diameter reduced by mineral or iron buildup.  For example, an existing 4-inch pipe may only have an effective diameter of 2 inches if there has been significant buildup over time.  This reduces the capacity of the water main and flow available from hydrants on that water main.

Could a water model be useful to your community? Over the next few newsletters, we plan to provide you with more information about how water modeling can be a valuable tool for evaluating your water distribution system and deciding how to program improvements.

FOX Engineering is an environmental engineering firm based in Ames, Iowa. We specialize in water and wastewater solutions for our diverse municipal and industrial clients. Our work varies in size and scope and can be found throughout the Midwest and beyond.