Using live modelling from Innovyze to minimise CSO spills

Wallingford, United Kingdom, June 26, 2018

Using live modelling from Innovyze to minimise CSO spills

This article was featured in Water Active 2018.


Claire Underhill, Client Services Manager at Innovyze describes the value of live modelling to minimise spills from Combined Sewer Outflows (CSO)




Combined Sewer Overflows or CSOs perform a vital role in preventing heavy or prolonged rainfall from inundating drainage systems. They divert excess sewage to the least damaging discharge point. While some pollution is inevitable, it’s less harmful to discharge it into a watercourse where it is further diluted, than into homes, schools and workplaces. It is still unpleasant, of course, and harmful to the environment.

The Environment Agency wants the water industry to monitor the majority of its CSOs by 2020.  Its Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) programme is looking to record when spills occur, their duration and how many of them happen.

Water utilities face heavy fines for unpermitted spills from CSOs. Accurately predicting CSO spills mean that preventative, rather than remedial, action can be taken. Forewarned is forearmed, especially when it comes to the near future. Advances in computer simulation and hardware have made real-time operation of stormwater, wastewater, river and combined systems a reality.

While modelling helps us understand the likelihood and consequence of a spill, it typically happens in hindsight – looking at historical data to determine what has happened – and foresight – looking at weather forecasts to assess what might happen. Modelling in real-time is a major step forward.

InfoWorks ICMLive from Innovyze is designed to show accurately what is happening in the present, inside networks that are hidden from view. It performs operational forecasting of urban and rural catchments in real-time, making it easier and faster to act to reduce the impact of sewage being discharged into watercourses.  

In ICMLive, weather data from the Met Office and telemetry data are streamed into the model to show water levels and flows around CSOs. When these become critical, operators can be alerted to take action to minimise the impact of spills. ICMLive combines this spatial and scalar data in a Time-Series Database (TSDB) to give utilities and consultants insight into what’s happening inside a network that we cannot see, unless it’s by CCTV. As the accuracy of data improves, the picture becomes more complete.

Using live data in conjunction with modelling data gives operators valuable insight into potential anomalies in the system. When live telemetry data differs radically from modelled data – showing higher levels or faster flow, for example – the operator is alerted to a problem somewhere in the system. It could be a blockage or a failing asset that might lead to the kind of unpermitted spill that attracts substantial fines.

Being proactively equipped with the right information helps reduce the impact of a spill, preventing serious harm to both the environment and the utility’s finances and reputation.


Claire Underhill
Client Services Manager, Innovyze.
Phone +44 (0) 1491 821 400

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