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As part of a South Australian-first process to improve water services, SA Water’s Crystal Brook-based maintenance team is using new bluetooth technology to assist in opening and shutting water main valves.

The innovative technology connects with a hands-free extendable arm to remotely open and shut water main valves through a process known as ‘exercising’ which is a vital process in making sure the drinking water supply network is operating as normal. 

Used much like Bluetooth on a smartphone, SA Water’s General Manager Asset Operations and Delivery, Mark Gobbie, said the technology has already improved the water network while protecting employee safety.

“Valves are important in controlling the flow of water through the network to our customers in any planned shutdown or emergency, and therefore we need to make sure they are always working as normal to limit potential temporary water disruptions to customers should they arise,” Mr Gobbie said.

“However, regularly loosening the valve’s mechanics and clearing debris is a manually exhausting and physical process for our people, with winding large valves requiring at least four people to safely complete.

“Being able to improve our pipe operations from the palm of our hands now makes exercising water valves a low-risk, one-person activity, which is a great result for our people and our customers.

“This is an innovation delivered by our dedicated major pipeline maintenance team at Crystal Brook, and we’re keen to see how the success of this trial can translate to sites across South Australia.”

The technology applies torque power to test the valve’s movement and create graphs and collect data on the valve’s operations, ensuring SA Water has the exact data to make informed, cost-effective decisions on follow-up repairs and maintenance in the future.

Since implementing the technology, at least seven previously un-operable valves along the Morgan to Whyalla, Swan Reach and Woomera pipeline networks have been successfully restored,saving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

“The health and safety of our people is our number one priority, and innovations like this are a great example of how we can reduce manual handling risks while improving the water network for our customers,” Mr Gobbie said.

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