By Jeff Presler, AICP, Woolpert project manager, & Ryan Butler, IAM GISP, Woolpert senior systems analyst
Every city, county, and water authority in the U.S. strives to meet the industry standards for hydrant flow tests set forth by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the National Fire Protection Association. Consultants at Woolpert have collaborated with water utility organizations to develop a Cityworks configuration to standardize hydrant flow test field data collection according to AWWA guidelines.
By combining Woolpert’s industry knowledge with the highly configurable nature of Cityworks, water utilities can utilize mobile technology to collect, input, and calculate data. Working with an inventory of hydrants in GIS, this solution enables clients to perform and manage hydrant flow inspections in the same efficient, accurate, and comprehensive manner to which Cityworks clients are accustomed when performing other common field workflows.
Water utilities may not have workflows built specifically for hydrant flow testing. In these cases, utilities develop workarounds such as independent databases, GIS tools, or even Excel spreadsheets—leading to manual data entry, data silos, and cumbersome reporting. Woolpert’s configuration simplifies this workflow by providing a template with a single screen interface. A custom dashboard adds additional value by displaying the test results graphically to provide enterprise visibility into the efficacy of the hydrant testing program.
The configured solution enables workers in the field to follow a step-by-step hydrant flow inspection process and input data on the fly using a mobile device. The system then performs calculations automatically on the same mobile form to determine whether the hydrants are within the range specified in the guidelines. If they are not within the standardized range, the user can take several actions in the field, such as testing additional hydrants or creating a follow-up work order to ensure the system is functioning as intended.
Cityworks can then generate reports detailing the results of all the hydrant tests within a jurisdiction. To help with reoccurring scheduled testing, the system tracks which hydrants have been tested and when using color-coded symbology on the map. This enables water utility supervisors and fire departments to easily follow data-driven hydrant test schedules and ensures that appropriate routine hydrant tests and maintenance activities are completed.
Why is this important? Hydrants are critical assets for the safety of communities and ensuring proper operation and adequate pressure to combat fires is just as important as delivering safe drinking water. Woolpert’s full Cityworks configuration can be deployed for virtually any municipality, county, or water utility agency to help everyone apply the same set of industry standards of hydrant flow testing.
AWWA recommends flow testing hydrants every 10 years, in addition to general inspections and flushing, which should be performed at different times every year. AWWA’s guidance on flow testing hydrants outlines best practices in assessing water pressure and flow rates, operability of the asset, and water quality. The standards include lessons learned—advising on details such as traffic control, creating a safe area for the hydrant to discharge, the types of tools needed, and wearing rain gear due to the high probability of wet conditions during testing.
During an inspection, AWWA recommends that field technicians follow certain procedures and access different parts of a hydrant and its relevant infrastructure using dial gauges, electronic recorders, and similar devices. This process provides data on static pressure when the hydrant is not flowing, residual pressure when the hydrant is open and flowing, and Pitot pressure, which refers to the actual flow rate in the middle of the discharge stream. These measurements provide the data needed to calculate the available fire flow rate. The Cityworks configuration creates a step-by-step process that can be followed by field technicians and that adheres to industry standards.
Fire hydrants can be damaged during flow tests if procedures are not followed properly. For example, a sudden change in pressure and flow momentum can severely damage pipes, valves, and other subcomponents. By empowering field crews with straightforward, step-by-step workflows in an easy-to-use mobile application, such problems can be avoided.
The future development of hydrant flow testing applications within Cityworks is likely to incorporate integrations with other IT systems. In that streamlined scenario, an inspection could automatically generate a work order if a hydrant does not comply with AWWA standards after multiple tests. Cityworks enables water utilities to monitor hydrant asset performance, track repair costs, predict when rehabilitation should occur, and seamlessly issue work orders to ensure that required repair activities are completed.