Case Studies

Striving for a 'One Utility, One Platform' Approach at Halifax Water

Streamlining data management, bringing down departmental silos and implementing 21st century water management at Nova Scotia's largest utility.

"One of the difficulties with diving into the digital world is that you end up having an app for this, and then an app for that. The fact that Klir had so many different modules that can talk and communicate with each other was really appealing to us. Users don't have to learn eight different applications: ideally they're only going to know the SCADA system and Klir."

As Data Analyst for the Halifax Regional Water Commission's Water Quality Programs, Adam McKnight has a privileged vantage point over Nova Scotia's largest water system.

Serving a population of more than 350,000 in the Halifax Regional Municipality, the utility manages 8 water supply plants, 14 wastewater treatment facilities and more than 1,500 kilometers of water mains in Canada’s second-fastest growing municipality, all of which must be constantly monitored for compliance through a rigorous sampling program." A lot of the time, compliance data drives our operational decision making. If we're reporting a number to a regulator, we need to make sure that we're doing what we need to do operationally to meet those targets," points out McKnight.

But getting those thousands of data points in front of the right people can be a challenge, especially when you consider the patchwork of offline and online systems that water workers like McKnight have to navigate. That’s why Halifax Water set out to transform the way it manages its water data, merging multiple data sources and processes into a single collaborative platform and paving the way for a more proactive, collaborative and resilient water data management program.

More Data, More Challenges

When Halifax Water first considered implementing Klir to manage its compliance data in 2020, it had already spent decades using software tools to transition away from paper and binder-based recordkeeping and do more with their existing data. But while compliance-specific web tools had helped Halifax Water take one step into a digital future, as the utility grew and the number of different people and departments using those tools increased, the utility’s data management system became increasingly strained. "We focused on getting drinking water data into the digital realm, then we expanded on that and incorporated wastewater compliance and sampling, then we added more research-based groups." The result was a work process that, from a data and reporting perspective, was unsustainable in a few ways:

  • Sampling data remained difficult to access, living "either in physical log sheets at the treatment facilities, digital spreadsheets, or in the time series data management system that stores our SCADA data. Having data in so many locations and formats makes it really difficult to pull the data together for comparison and analysis, especially when it is needed quickly."
  • Spreadsheets were being used as databases, creating data opacity and discouraging proactive data management.
  • Even when users could get data in and out of the system, it wasn’t built for collaboration and often became disorganized with too many hands in the pot.

"We didn't really have a solid water quality data governance or structure. It was kind of a free for all, which led to a lot of challenges,” says McKnight.

Implementing a New Approach to Water Data Management

It became clear that Halifax Water would need to adopt a new approach to water quality data management—one that took the patchwork of tools it had depended on in the past and turned it into one truly integrated system. To do that, the utility turned to Klir, an operating system (OS) for water management that integrates compliance, sampling and all other aspects of water and wastewater data management into one integrated, centralized and easy to use system.

Presented with the opportunity to switch to Klir, McKnight says it didn’t make sense not to make the jump. “We have all of this operational data, we have all of this compliance data—it didn't make sense not to have that data be brought together. ”With the help of Klir and a renewed commitment to the One Utility, One Platform approach, Halifax Water aims to:

1. Maintain High Quality Drinking Water

Klir dovetailed with a longstanding desire at Halifax Water to do more with data and move from reactive problem solving to an approach whereby compliance personnel, operators and engineers worked proactively to mitigate drinking water and wastewater issues. "Over the last three years we’ve been trying to look at our compliance data as early as possible, especially when data is beginning to trend differently. We began by getting our compliance inspectors to send us emails when they're noticing things in the distribution systems or at treatment facilities when data is outside normal thresholds."

Klir presented McKnight’s department with the opportunity to see the bigger compliance picture, notice trends before they become problems, and make sure the right people have access to the right data at the right time. "That way, we're able to get ahead of things and maintain high quality drinking water."

2. Decrease Dependence on Individuals

The complicated routines of a water sampling program as large as Halifax Water’s will often live, to some extent, inside the desk drawer or head of a single employee. That can create problems if that information—or person—ever goes missing.

"That's a lot to put on one person,” points out McKnight. “And if that one person leaves, you're stuck."

Klir gave Halifax the ability to offload that information into a universally-accessible system, decreasing dependence on individuals and building a system that was more resilient, more secure and less prone to information loss.

3. Centralize Compliance Data and Cut Down on Data Chasing

Larger utilities like Halifax Water often struggle to maintain a single set of compliance data, which can sometimes lead to confusion or even overlapping, contradictory information about water and wastewater quality.

"Sometimes data used in reporting is calculated from a combination of compliance and operational sampling program data. However, confusion can result when datasets unintentionally referenced are not the authoritative source of the information and have become outdated. We need one single source of truth, where people know they can go to reference authoritative data at any time.”

Linking and centralizing compliance, monitoring, research, operational and other data together to create a single source of truth provides Halifax Water’s users with a new level of decision-making confidence, allowing operators and staff preparing reports to have a full and clear picture of what is actually going on in the utility.

4. Use Fewer Apps to Build a More Efficient, Secure System

It’s not uncommon today for operators, engineers and compliance professionals at large utilities to use separate tools for compliance reporting, sampling, pretreatment and FOG, backflow prevention & cross-connection control.McKnight says that can become a frustrating challenge for a utility trying to build a system that works, and is also precisely why Halifax Water chose Klir.

“The fact that Klir had so many different modules that can talk and communicate with each other was really appealing to us. Users don't have to learn eight different applications: ideally they're only going to know the SCADA system and Klir."

McKnight says that in addition to reducing the time Halifax Water spends training new users, it also allows the utility to avoid situations where someone leaves the company and takes access to and familiarity with an app with them.

“From an auditing perspective that can be a huge red flag. If you're only using a handful of applications, that's a lot easier from a security perspective."

5. Break Down Departmental Silos and Promote Collaboration

Halifax Water made a multi-year commitment to become a “One Water” operation, integrating stormwater, wastewater and drinking water into one seamless system.

“Our big objective is to break down silos and have more communication between the different business units, departments and divisions. Alongside that, internally we've also [adopted] the slogan of ‘one water, one data.’ Those two goals really go hand in hand.”

Klir has helped accelerate that transformation within Halifax Water, helping form bridges between different groups within the utility, giving all user groups easy access to water quality data, and helping decision makers at the utility get on the same page when it comes time to problem-solve.

“It only helps make us stronger, because we're going to be working together and everyone has a common goal rather than feeling like there's different groups that are working against each other."

One Water, One Data

With Klir, Halifax Water foresees making serious progress on its goals to encourage interdepartmental collaboration as a One Water utility, set the stage for further data integration in the near future, as well as:

  • Adopting a proactive approach to problem solving, helping it maintain water of high quality for its customers and the environment.
  • Decrease dependence on individuals, reducing the risk of information loss.
  • Create a single source of truth, avoiding overlapping or contradictory reporting and streamlining the compliance process as a whole. 
  • Use fewer apps to build a system that is easier to use, takes less training time to master, and is better prepared from an audit and security perspective.
  • Break down departmental silos and promote collaboration, allowing the utility to deliver on its One Water, One Data vision.

Bring a 'One Water' Approach to Your Utility

Klir is a single, unified operating system for water, pulling every aspect of wastewater management—including compliance, sampling and more—into an easy to use dashboard. Learn more about how Klir can cut down on administration and record-keeping work, create new opportunities for collaboration, and provide a level of system-wide visibility unmatched by other water data management systems.

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