9 mistakes we often see in hydraulic modeling

Eric Suesz Eric Suesz July 6, 2021

6 min read

For over thirty years, Innovyze has helped water distribution, stormwater, and wastewater professionals achieve success with hydraulic modeling projects. In that time, we have seen the same mistakes made over and over. We have designed and built the InfoWorks ICM and WSPro Workgroup architecture so that you don’t have to make these same mistakes again.

1. Your model is not purpose-driven

The first mistake is embarking on a project without a clear purpose. That purpose could be analysis of sewer overflows or flood events from the past, or implementation of a distribution pressure calming regime, or for future capacity planning. If you don’t have a clear purpose in mind, it could be that you end up with the wrong model to answer your important questions. With each model in InfoWorks ICM, it’s easy to build and maintain a set of scenarios, each of which corresponds to a particular organizational, physical and financial goal, whether for planning, design or operational management.

2. Insufficient investment

Investing the proper budget and time into developing your hydraulic model is critical to make sure your model solves real world challenges and that your return on investment is quickly realized.

One way InfoWorks Workgroup does this is by encouraging teamwork in model building, so models can be built using your most cost-effective team. And all the construction tools allow models to be built rapidly, so they are ready to be used as soon as possible.

InfoWorks also allows you to regularly – or continuously – keep your models up to date and fit for purpose. This gives a much better return on investment than the old norm of building a model to answer a single question, then rebuilding models from scratch repeatedly to answer new questions. With quality-assured model management, the value of your modelling projects will increase while the cost of model building and maintenance will come down, giving you increasing returns on your investment.

3. You work in organizational silos

Of course you do – so do most organizations beyond a certain size! We know that organizational silos lead to inefficient data and information silos. As with any working project, being collaborative and open to bringing in cross-functional expertise can lead to a better outcome. So how do you break down those silos?

At Innovyze, we recognize that building and maintaining models is best done in a collaborative way. And we get most value from models when they can be used across planning, design, asset management, and operations. InfoWorks is designed to integrate with other corporate systems – drawing on data and distributing results across silos. And it is used by people with a range of differing expertise and familiarity with modelling.

In particular, the Live versions of InfoWorks are used to inform operations teams of the state of the network in real-time – and to predict service levels for the hours and days ahead. The InfoWorks models become the glue that holds together multi-disciplinary teams.

Want to know how teams typically work in InfoWorks ICM? Watch this video.

4. Low confidence in asset data

Worse than low confidence is overconfidence in asset data quality. If inaccurate or incomplete data is used to build your model, then the results will be questionable – and the model may not be fit for purpose. Often, system data exists in multiple places such as GIS, CMMS, Excel, or manually recorded field notes, but simply put, your model should leverage the most up-to-date and verified information from your network.

The reality is that nobody has a perfect set of asset data – and those that think they do should take a closer look! But we can get very close. For example, InfoWorks ICM runs a set of exacting tests – called engineering validation – on the incoming asset data to check for missing data and mistakes such as missing connectivity and wrong units. Fresh values for missing data and parameters can be automatically inferred in the same way that a skilled engineer would do manually. As asset data sets improve, InfoWorks’ seamless data exchange allows fresh asset data to be imported and models updated in an automated, quality-controlled way.

5. Your model does not correspond with real life

If you receive a compelling output from a model simulation – how does that translate to what is observed in the field? Check observed data to make sure that what you simulate is close to how the hydraulic network is truly operating.

While the water industry is not yet a great example of Big Data, we are collecting more and more metered and monitored data from the field. InfoWorks makes it really easy to compare simulated results with monitored flows, pressures and levels – and to flag any discrepancies. InfoWorks allows you to make permanent connections between operational databases and historians so those comparisons can be made simply at any time. We think this can help justify increased spend on your monitoring network.

6. Infrequent calibration and verification

A useful model needs to be recalibrated from time to time against monitored network data. A model that was last calibrated five years ago is unlikely to reflect the state of the network now and will simply not be as informative as it could be.

Studies have shown that the most frequent cause of calibration errors are mistakes in network asset data – including out-of-date pump and valve settings. I have already discussed how InfoWorks allows your model to stay up to date with the network changes. But even with an updated model, calibration values will change over time, and InfoWorks provides the tools to latch on to new monitored values and re-calculate calibration parameters.

7. You just don’t trust your model’s results

To provide a return on investment in modelling, you have to be able to trust your model to answer important planning and operational questions.

We built InfoWorks to encourage cross-discipline working, with built-in QA that allows models to be checked against real life and updated continuously, so it draws on the best asset data from across the utility. We’ve been told that we have some of the most trusted hydraulic engines in the world. They can run lightning fast on the best hardware you can get hold of – or in the cloud, if you prefer. They can also run the biggest models you can throw at them so you don’t have to compromise on detail and accuracy.

8. Unfamiliarity with what your model can do for you

If a model is not delivering useful insights, you may need to refresh your familiarity with the full capabilities available in your modeling software. This will ensure your team’s experience matches with what you need from your model.

We think InfoWorks is the most richly functional water modelling package in the world – and we’re always pouring more resources into development. That includes Infocare support and maintenance. To that end, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of all the software has to offer, either through our support portal of via online or face-to-face training. We want you to be an expert in our software – so ask us questions if you need help accomplishing your goals!

9. Keeping your models in the modeling silo

While you need to be an expert to build and maintain hydraulic models, the benefits of using models can and should be available throughout the water service provider, from planning, to engineering, to asset management and on to operations. This is the ultimate aim behind the rise of the digital twin in water management. We want you to not just use Digital Twin models in the control room but to share them at all points along your journey, not just for planning and operational management, but for explaining to all of your stakeholders and the community why you’re confident in your planning.

Does that sound like the way you would use an up-to-date, purpose-driven hydraulic model? Of course it does – because that very same model lies at the heart of the Digital Twin. So please think beyond your modelling silo – break your models out and make the results available throughout your organization.

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