In October 2021, the Birmingham Water Works (BWW) in Birmingham, Alabama, discovered a broken 16-inch water main in one of its city centers that supplied water to several businesses and hospitals. The break was found after one hospital reported a low-pressure issue, and the BWW responded quickly to repair the broken water line and restore pressure. The issue, however, served as a catalyst for the deployment of 20 AMERICAN Flow Control SEMPER® Remote Pressure Monitors (RPM) to monitor critical locations and gain additional information about its distribution system.
“We were in the process of performing an upgrade at one of our water filtration plants, which involved tying in and installing new pipelines, when the main break occurred,” said BWW’s Manager of Industrial & Commercial Accounts Johnnie Mayfield. “After that event, it became even more apparent that we needed a better way to monitor the critical locations in our service area. Because of our previous experience with the AFC SEMPER RPM, we knew it would be a valuable tool to help us monitor these locations throughout our system.”
The BWW had purchased five AFC SEMPER RPMs for a separate project earlier in the year, and the units had performed successfully. The 20 additional AFC SEMPER RPMs were placed in critical locations across BWW’s 759-square-mile service area.
“AMERICAN understood the urgency of the situation and was able to get the units to us very quickly,” Mayfield said. “Gabe [Restrepo] came in late on a Friday afternoon to help get the units installed and set up in the Trimble Unity® software. He also helped us develop a ‘how to’ sheet for installers. When our hydrant team came in on Monday, they had maps, locations and the install sheets. It took four crews about half a day to install all 20 units; once they did, the units were in service immediately. This was not a one-person job but truly a team effort from our BWW staff and AMERICAN.
“Throughout the day, I would check on the readings,” Mayfield continued. “Four of the units were placed on our emergency connections to see if we had sufficient pressure and determine what the fluctuations were with the pumps on and off. We’ve never been able to see continuous pressure at these locations prior to deploying the AFC SEMPER RPM.”
Days after the units were installed, the AFC SEMPER RPM helped the BWW discover a high-volume leak at a golf course. “We saw the pressure had dropped by about 60 psi when the main break occurred,” Mayfield said. “I reached out to one of our engineers to see if she knew anything about it. Within a few minutes, she verified there was a break, and crews were headed to the site to repair it. This just shows how quickly the units can notify us when something’s going on.”
Mayfield said the AFC SEMPER RPM allows the BWW to fill in informational gaps, as the water utility already has a robust SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system in place. [SCADA is a system used to gather and analyze real-time data as well as monitor and control operations and/or equipment.] The BWW provides drinking water to more than 770,000 people across five counties in the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area and maintains approximately 4,100 miles of pipes.
“The AFC SEMPER RPM gives us clarity and peace of mind,” Mayfield said. “We discovered our system was working as it should be. I would definitely recommend the AFC SEMPER RPM to others. I only recommend people and products if they go above and beyond, and I know they won’t be disappointed with the service or quality. AMERICAN certainly delivered on this project.”
Mayfield and others at the BWW also praised the Trimble Unity software that works with the AFC SEMPER RPM. “You can scroll through readings in a meeting, at home or in the office, and see how fluctuations are affecting the system,” Mayfield explained. “It gives us the ability to see things in real time that we’ve never been able to see before and gives us more knowledge about our distribution system.”
BWW’s Superintendent of Industrial & Commercial Accounts Josh Smith added, “You can set up user groups within the software that allows others to easily see and access information.”
The AFC SEMPER RPM is a wireless, battery-powered pressure recorder that can be installed on any hydrant or system asset. An important capability of the AFC SEMPER RPM is its “Lift and Shift” mobility, which allows utilities to move the units throughout their systems to help identify problem areas. The AFC SEMPER RPM was introduced in partnership with Trimble Water in 2020 and was recognized as Water Online’s Top Product in 2021. It provides utilities with the data needed to monitor water pressure throughout their systems, help identify transients and reduce non-revenue water. To learn more, visit https://american-usa.com/products/valves-and-hydrants/semper/.