End of Waste: How real-time data helped Urban Utilities increase biosolids economic & environmental performance

The Issue

In 2020 the Queensland Government introduced an End of Waste Code (EOW Code) for Biosolids under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011, intended to actively promote recovery opportunities and transform the perception of waste as a valuable resource.   Urban Utilities generates over 200,000 tonnes of biosolids that is further processed producing 50,000 tonnes of final product each year. This is a significant transport, processing, logistics and reuse activity representing over 30% of the total cost to treat wastewater.  There are strict conditions to meet under the Code. If not proactively managed, Urban Utilities, like other utilities, could be stranded with material that cannot be disposed of using existing beneficial re-use routes, leading to regulatory compliance issues, non-beneficial reuse and more than $50M+ per annum increased costs.

Traditional management methods often have a high dependency on individuals with the requisite knowledge, while accessing and sharing data and lab test results was often difficult. Workflows and interventions to prevent unwanted contaminants were manual and subject to error, and overall practices are not supported by real-time reports and data for effective decision making. For this reason, Urban Utilities identified a need to adopt a digital platform to enhance its EOW Code assurance practices and develop whole of system active management capability.

The Solution

An alliance between Urban Utilities and WaterStart’s global technology recruitment program identified Klir as a potential solution based on its capabilities in collaboration and compliance.

Klir provides an enterprise-scale software system to manage and analyze wastewater & biosolids compliance and operational data. The Klir platform allows water professionals to manage critical processes across their entire system, from permits to sampling and inspections. With features such as automation, data analytics, and task management, Klir offers a simplified process that reduces risk, operating expenses, and administrative overhead.

In December of 2020, Klir, Urban Utilities, and WaterStart commenced a seven-month pilot to deploy the Klir compliance management solution. This pilot involved an equal share financial investment between Urban Utilities and WaterStart.

The Pilot

To ensure measurable and positive business outcomes from the partnership, Klir conducted the following:

  1. Pilot Phase: to install and configure the software across 10 Urban Utilities sites with the objective of centralizing workflows and data across all biosolids management processes, including production, logistics and dispersion. The pilot included:
    1. Assessment Stage – To develop a deep understanding of Urban Utilities’ business needs.
    2. Customization Stage – To deliver a fit-for-purpose and process-oriented platform specific to Urban Utilities’ needs including migrating data, retiring legacy systems and validating the end-to-end functionality of the solution.

Subscription Phase (initiated Sept 2021): To roll out the Klir platform as a complete utility management solution across the broader Urban Utilities organization.

The Results

Over the course of seven months, the Klir platform successfully achieved the following outcomes:

On a broader sense, the collaboration has and continues to deliver valuable business benefits, including:

  • Risk Mitigation – The Klir application allows for early intervention to eliminate the source of contamination. It does this by leveraging data feeds from SCADA and LIMS systems and warning asset operators of contaminants that are approaching or violating exceedance limits. This has enabled a focus on plants that have experienced previous contamination events.
  • Decreased costs – through increased operational efficiency; lower transportation costs; avoidance of contaminated waste disposal costs and non-compliance penalties; reallocation of staff hours from administration to higher value activities; and improved market access
  • Improved sustainability via avoidance of waste volume to landfill.
  • TIme savings – 20% less time spent on administrative reporting work allows team to focus on proactive priorities
  • Improved satisfaction, loyalty, and organizational reputation via sound biosolids management and avoiding compliance infringements.
  • Improved organizational resilience via an enterprise-wide platform for knowledge management, providing intelligence and insights for timely decisions by reducing the reliance on critical personnel.
  • Quality Insights – Data collected in the Klir platform allows users to gain key insights into biosolids product grading, dryness, and quality. Urban Utilities can set budgets against weight and cost, for accurate forecasting.
  • Compliance – Visibility into product quality supports the Urban Utilities team in their efforts to stay adapt to the new regulation.

The Klir system brings hundreds of data points together for contextual and simplified quality and cost analysis including:

  • LIMS data, SCADA Data and Biosolids Grading all in one platform.
  • Monitoring 13 Treatment Plants in total
  • Monitoring the compliance of 22 unique compounds
  • Tracking sampling records from 339 unique location points across all their treatment plants
  • Analyzing Scada data of 76 unique assets across all Treatment Plants.

Further Development

Moving forward, Klir’s platform has the ability to scale as needed to manage key functions across Urban Utilities. Capabilities available within the platform include sampling, permitting, inspections and industrial pretreatment) and more.

Urban Utilities is currently working with Klir on its wider rollout across the organization. It is planned that the platform will allow for fully digital and information integration, and potential for broader enterprise adoption for compliance assurance for products such as recycled water, effluent, and other future product streams as Urban Utilities brings them online.

About Klir

Klir’s integrated water regulatory solution helps the world’s water utilities make water safer. The Klir platform gathers, monitors and analyses regulatory compliance data, all in one easy-to-use web-based application. With it, water utilities are better equipped to quantify and mitigate the true risks to the environment and human health. It empowers them to improve their performance in addressing and managing enforcement actions issued by the Regulator and to develop more focused asset investment programmes. By providing them with a powerful way to manage all their regulatory compliance missions in one place, Klir is the ideal solution for water regulations and compliance that helps utilities capture widespread efficiency gains, while ultimately protecting the environment.

To learn more about how Klir helps teams across an entire water utility organization achieve their strategic and operational goals, visit Klir today at www.klir.io.


The Issue at SNWA and LVVWD

Permitting requirements for large water utilities like the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD) can be an extremely time intensive process requiring a great deal of man-hours. Anything to help make the permitting process more efficient can lead to large cost savings for an organization, which is why SNWA and LVVWD wanted to pilot new technology that would streamline more of their permitting related processes.

SNWA and LVVWD have permits that range from:

  • environmental permits dealing with environmental regulatory compliance
  • municipal permits when dealing with maintenance issues and maintenance projects,
  • county, state and a city permits for digging into the street and closing down streets,
  • groundwater permits for extracting, treating and delivering drinking water,
  • rights of way permits,
  • wildlife and sensitive species permits for work along the Las Vegas Wash and Virgin River
  • various permits required to meet compliance for the Safe Drinking Water Act among others.

All in all, SNWA and LVVWD are managing and tracking around 3,000 different permits.

SNWA and LVVWD use a variety of programs and applications to manage their permits from in-house programs to spreadsheets to track various reports, renewals and compliance requirements associated with their permits. There is really no comprehensive program used organization-wide to help the water utilities manage the high volume and complex permitting processes and compliance requirements.

The Solution

SNWA and LVVWD saw an opportunity to dramatically change the way these permit systems were being managed by partnering with Klir on a WaterStart pilot project. The Klir technology was one of the only comprehensive systems on the market, which is what was appealing to SNWA and LVVWD. Klir is a modular SaaS platform that centralizes workflows and data for environmental regulation, compliance and quality. There are various other companies in the market that provide permitting solutions, but they typically are only for specific types of permits. For example, there are several different companies that deal primarily with regulatory compliance permitting for the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act etc. These may not offer solutions that deal with water quality monitoring and permitting, or various other types of permits, which is what was needed at SNWA and LVVWD with so many different permitting requirements. Klir provided a compliance and regulation platform that is built specifically for water utilities which can cater for multiple business areas including Permit Management, Sample Management, Violation Management and Audits. The potential for scalability of the Klir platform is something which appealed to SNWA and LVVWD.

Steven Ross is a Senior Environmental, Health and Safety Analyst at LVVWD who helped lead the pilot project. Ross mentioned, “A comprehensive system like Klir helps us pull all of these different permits together to track all the various requirements of the permitting process. It also helps us to collaborate better within our organization among different workgroups to ensure we can get the necessary information to maintain compliance of our permits.”

Klir Permit Management is a cloud hosted solution that holds and lists all of an organization’s permits in one central place. The Klir dashboard displays high level information for all permits in the organization including permit types, the permit numbers, the employees responsible for each permit in each department, the renewal dates, compliance information and more. Data can be quickly sorted with various filters such as department, permit type and open tasks. Information can be managed and viewed by multiple users across multiple departments supporting seamless cross functional collaboration.

Out of the 3,000 permits at SNWA and LVVWD, the initial launch of Klir included the management of approximately 100 permits which primarily included minor source air permits, distribution and maintenance permits, wildlife permits and environmental compliance permits.

Management can quickly view a rolled-up summary of pending & active permits through the Klir dashboard. This gives management an organizational level view of important dates that are approaching, how well the organization is doing in maintaining the permits, permits that might be due for renewal and any notices about being out of compliance. Management can then assign specific employees to various tasks associated with each permit, which can then be viewed and monitored by all. This makes it very easy and streamlined to identify who?s responsible for renewing the permit, submitting a report on the permit, finding specific information and entering information that needs to be tracked for that permit moving the organization from reactive permit management to procative permit management.

There are three critical processes associated with the Klir system: 1) obtaining permits and gathering the information and team members to make a permit application, 2) managing of that permit after it’s been issued by the regulatory agency and 3) managing non-compliance or issues outlined in the permit. The initial focus at SNWA and LVVWD was on the management of the permits and the solution is now being expanded to additional users to include permit application and management of any non-compliances or issues.

Results of the Pilot

The pilot has been launched just to evaluate its feasibility and use. SNWA invested $50,000 to develop the pilot and has been satisfied with what they are finding to this point. “I’m really pleased with it,” said Ross. ” We currently have an in-house system that we developed about 10 years ago which only tracks our environmental health and safety permits; however, this technology is more dynamic and provides us greater opportunities to track an array of permits across different departments in an easy, user-friendly interface.”
There’s a function within the Klir system that allows users to collaborate with other users that might need to provide certain information. SNWA and LVVWD see this as a program that could work well on a larger scale and provide management with a tool to see and understand how things are working and how compliance is being managed for the utilities’ various regulations and permits.

The Klir team worked with SNWA in advance of the launch to identify a set list of success criteria and these were all successfully met as part of the initial launch of the Klir Permit Management solution. In addition, the Klir team met all agreed deliverable dates and worked closely with SNWA throughout the process to ensure the Klir solution met their business needs. Although specific operational metrics were not measured, SNWA and LVVWD see the Klir technology as a system that has the ability to save a lot of man-hours, especially for organizations that have significant permit requirements. Oftentimes, organizations will submit a permit application that gets kicked back by the regulator for not providing all of the required information. Steve believes the Klir system will provide strong cost savings and efficiency in managing this process. The largest overall savings and benefits will come from having just one system for tracking almost everything needed for permits. “I think a lot of different departments will use this,” says Ross.

Permits usually have an expiration, they usually have reporting associated with it and they usually have something that needs to be tracked, and the Klir technology allows you to do all of that. Maintaining the data in a centralized system helps management keep an eye on things and stay informed, rather than relying upon different types of disjointed information and inputs from different directions. Overall efficiency improvement is what SNWA and LVVWD believe is the biggest benefits they will be seeing from this technology.

The pilot was intended to observe whether the specific technology will work for SNWA and LVVWD, and Steve says it has been going great to this point. “So far it’s looking good. So far working with Klir has been really great.” According to Ross, all of those within the organization who has been involved in the pilot have expressed that this technology is going to help them in their jobs a great deal.

Continued Adoption

LVVWD and SNWA are exploring other opportunities within the organizations to use the Klir technology, including at its water quality laboratory. SNWA is currently in discussions with Klir to develop a module that will help laboratory staff schedule and track progress with required monitoring under various rules and requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The program is currently in the design phase with the intention that the Klir module will interface with the laboratory’s current information management system.

SNWA has signed up on a 7-year term with Klir for the Permitting module and have subsequently added on the Klir Sample Management Module. Language has also been added to the Klir contract to allow any public body in the USA to purchase the company’s software without the need for procurement by using a “joinder” or piggyback agreement.

About Klir

All utilities no matter what their size note that ‘operational efficiency is critical to their success’ and ‘regulation management accounts for the majority of operational effort which incurs a substantial cost’. All of this is underpinned by the fact that most regulation management occurs outside systems. There is no single source of truth in utilities and up to 50% of regulation managers time is spent sourcing data manually. Where IT systems have been developed the cost is prohibitive for almost all municipalities.

The Klir platform is purpose-built by water regulatory compliance experts for water utilities. It recognizes that managing compliance data in a utility is a cross-functional activity, with each function having varying objectives and needs. Klir is a modular SaaS platform that centralizes workflows and data for environmental regulation, compliance and quality. The Permits Management module caters for the application process and management of all permit types in one system, providing a one-stop shop for permit applications across the utility. Having all permit data in one central place gives management a birds-eye view of permits across the organization and the status of each permit in real-time.