University of Alabama stadium

ROLL Trenchless! Championship Strategy: Tuscaloosa’s Winning Playbook for Wastewater Tech Rehabilitation

Nestled along the banks of the Black Warrior River, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is not just home to the University of Alabama and its roaring Crimson Tide football team — it’s also at the forefront of an underground revolution that’s setting new standards in wastewater infrastructure management.

Just like the Crimson Tide does on the field, the City of Tuscaloosa is writing its own playbook. The City has recruited some of the best software and integrated technological solutions to tackle the challenges of maintaining and rehabilitating its extensive network of sanitary sewers and storm drains.

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Scouting Report: Challenges On and Off the Field

Tuscaloosa’s sewer infrastructure, an extensive network spanning 507 miles of sanitary sewers and 252 miles of stormwater drains, presented formidable management hurdles. The system’s capacity was not only tested by its sheer size but also by the significant fluctuations in usage, particularly during football games when the population could surge by up to 150,000. Just over a decade ago, the City grappled with the task of efficiently overseeing this intricate network. Identifying areas in need of cleaning, repairs or immediate attention was a daunting task. Data was scattered across different systems, including CentralSquare EAM (formerly Lucity Asset Management software), Esri’s GIS mapping, and an outdated CCTV inspection platform. This fragmentation hampered the ability to efficiently pinpoint and prioritize sections for maintenance or rehabilitation, leading to inefficiencies and missed opportunities to enhance the City’s vital sewer infrastructure.

“The data was a mess and spread out everywhere. Only certain people had access to certain data, and we found ourselves very reactive with maintenance and rehab,” recalls Joy Cowart, asset management quality control specialist, Tuscaloosa. “We knew better tools were out there”.

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analyzing data in Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa Recruits Jacobs to QB

Tuscaloosa knew its current technology and ways were not sustainable. So, officials embarked on a transformative infrastructure management journey with the assistance of Jacobs. This partnership marked a significant stride in reevaluating the city’s resources and strategizing for advancement. By recognizing the constraints of the city’s outdated CCTV inspection software, Tuscaloosa took a decisive step forward, integrating ITpipes technology into their CCTV inspection vehicles and office protocols. This shift allowed for bi-directional automation of pipe inspection data with CentralSquare EAM and Esri’s ArcGIS.

Supervisors could now issue work orders within CentralSquare EAM for the pipes to be inspected. These work orders would then be automatically pushed to the CCTV inspection vehicle’s ITpipes Mobile software. There, operators can see what pipes they are being assigned to inspect. All the asset information is already populated, and once the day is complete, all the new inspections sync back to the office. The inspections are now available to all Tuscaloosa stakeholders on ITpipes Web, and the CentralSquare EAM work order is marked complete.

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The introduction of ITpipes revolutionized data handling, enabling the real-time fusion of inspection data with GIS mapping.

This technological integration redefined Tuscaloosa’s approach to wastewater management, equipping CCTV Inspection and other field teams with GIS-powered laptops and tablets to efficiently navigate and address inspection or maintenance tasks. This accessibility cultivated a proactive maintenance approach and expedited decision-making. The elimination of data silos enabled information flow within the organization, simplifying the identification and regular management of “hotspot” critical areas while minimizing data entry inaccuracies and redundant efforts.

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From Scrimmage to Solution

With coordinated and organized pipe inspection reports now flowing in, Tuscaloosa and Jacobs had data they could finally use to make decisions for the pipeline life cycle. Enter Argon, Jacobs’ Digital OneWater asset management tool for wastewater and stormwater conveyance systems. Argon (formerly SCREAM) helps water utilities create informed, data-driven re-inspection, maintenance, and rehabilitation plans for their pipelines and network infrastructure.

“Argon’s system brings a host of key advantages to Tuscaloosa’s infrastructure strategy. Its robust condition scores, which are derived from detailed ITpipes inspections, critical asset data, and GIS, not only estimate the remaining useful life of assets but also calculate risk scores,” states Jacobs engineering technology specialist Courtney Kennedy.

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“This informs the City’s decisions, guiding them to select and rehabilitate sewers where they’re most critically needed. Moreover, Argon’s capability to incorporate CentralSquare EAM’s work order history into its analysis aids Tuscaloosa in recommending and scheduling future actions, whether for maintenance or structural interventions,” she adds.

Argon also prioritizes capital and work by estimating costs and selecting optimal methodology, ensuring Tuscaloosa’s investments are prudent and impactful.

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Turning Data into Touchdowns

With pipe inspection data they were now confident in, Tuscaloosa was able to start letting yearly cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) projects.

“Argon is our main factor in selecting a pipe for the annual CIPP project,” states Tuscaloosa director of capital projects Bryan Gurney. “The higher the Argon score, the more urgent it is.”

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So far, the City has lined more than 15 miles of sanitary sewer. Standard inverted steam-cured felt CIPP is the City’s preferred method of rehabilitation.

“The cost savings of CIPP vs. open-cut line replacement is our biggest driver,” adds Justin Shaw, OTS Supervisor. “Huge savings, plus not tearing up a road and inconveniencing residents. With CIPP, they’re in and out in a day.”

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All the technology hasn’t just helped with the reactive work. Thanks to ITpipes and Argon, Tuscaloosa can budget accurately for each year’s CIPP project.

“Argon calculates project estimates using Tuscaloosa’s own bid result data, which can be adjusted using the latest ENR CCI (Engineering New Record City Cost Index) adds Courtney Kennedy. “This gives the city the confidence and data to work with the elected officials to achieve their rehab goals.”

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The Scoreboard Shows the Results

The integration of ITpipes, Esri GIS, CentralSquare EAM, and Argon has revolutionized the management of Tuscaloosa’s wastewater infrastructure, significantly improving operational efficiency and system performance. The combination of these technologies has streamlined the city’s buried infrastructure management processes, resulting in a greater than 50 percent reduction in sanitary sewer overflows in the last three years. The number has gone down from 102 to just 48, though the ultimate goal is to achieve zero overflows.

Cowart adds, “Seeing Tuscaloosa move from battling infrastructure issues to really getting a grip on them with some intuitive tech solutions shows just how much we can do when all team members buy in, embrace, and implement innovation. It’s all about teaming up and thinking outside the box.”

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Over the last decade, Tuscaloosa has become a pioneer in infrastructure management, using ITpipes, Esri GIS, CentralSquare EAM, and Argon to improve efficiency and reduce costs. By prioritizing innovation and operational excellence, Tuscaloosa has set a new standard for municipalities worldwide, creating sustainable and well-managed urban environments. Tuscaloosa’s success story serves as a guide for other cities, emphasizing the importance of adopting cutting-edge solutions to meet the challenges of urban growth and development.

Mark Grabowski is business development manager at ITpipes.

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