WaterNSW tapping into real-time IoT data to improve water availability

As part of the state-owned entity's plan to build a holistic picture of the quantity and quality of water in NSW.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Screenshot: WaterNSW

WaterNSW has a vision of increasing its use of telemetered and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and devices to remove any manual work required to collect data in the field, make that information widely available to customers and the community, and ultimately provide an overarching view of water quantity and quality in the state. 

WaterNSW oversees New South Wales' rivers and water supply systems and supplies two thirds of the water used in the state. It owns and operates the largest surface and groundwater monitoring network in the southern hemisphere, and builds, maintains, and operates essential infrastructure.

The state-owned entity is slowly getting there, having recently reached a stage of being able to process and visualise the data it collects, and make it shareable via its WaterInsights Portal.

WaterNSW can now compile all the telemetry data it collects and automatically processes it on a single platform using Nutanix software.

"Our water data is critically important, and it needs to be shared. Making it accessible is a core part of our role," WaterNSW CIO Ian Robinson said.

"From the Bureau of Meteorology investigating weather patterns, to government departments making policy and population decisions, to farmers and irrigators who need to know when there's enough water available for them to start pumping -- all these decisions are influenced by our data."

WaterNSW relies on using 4,600 measurement gauges and sensing devices installed in waterways across the state to collect data including water levels, flow rates, uplift pressure, groundwater depths, water quality, and seepage.

"We're a data management company when it comes down to it," Robinson said.

"Everything we deliver for our customers depends on the visibility of what's happening across our water network. Whether that's river flows, storage levels, or water quality, every decision we make is data-driven."

See also: Internet of Things (IoT): Cheat sheet (TechRepublic)  

Part of the journey has involved a data centre refresh.

"The data centre refresh was necessary as the infrastructure was life expired and needed upgrading," Robinson told ZDNet.

"We took the opportunity to replace the hardware with a modern hyper-converged solution but also modernised every application on the infrastructure so that it used the most recent operating system, database servers and application versions. This resolved out of data patching of systems that were hampered by end of life environments."

Robinson detailed that the refresh meant opting for a hybrid cloud environment based in Microsoft Azure. He said while going cloud-only was considered, it was a more costly option.  

This has since allowed the organisation to transition 400 applications to the new environment, with a large number of those modernised with the latest Windows and SQL Server version.

Additionally, it has also meant that all manually collected data from various applications is now stored in a single data lake based in Azure.

"This allows the integration of previously disparate data sets to a single source," Robinson continued. "With that comes the need for various layers of processing of raw data to different states through business rules configured to allow a consistent and high integrity set of data catalogue items that can be accessed through either visualised interfaces, and leveraging geospatial or other context alignments."

The hybrid cloud model has also meant the organisation could adopt a continuous integration and continuous development DevOps model.

"This involves ensuring we can use DevOps tools to automate the creation of development environments, releasing new code, and automating testing," Robinson said.

"Enabling our infrastructure team to improve its capabilities to meet application development demand and ensure handover from development to operations is faster and more seamless. This involves the use of orchestration tools to automate currently manual activities.

"The program also assisted WaterNSW strengthen its DR capabilities through the use of synchronisation services and automated failover processes for critical applications. This in turn is part of a bigger process to improve the resilience of the business with stronger data centre segmentation."

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