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The Lifecycle of field data collection for water infrastructure

June 3, 2024

For water utilities, the process of gathering accurate and comprehensive field data is critical in ensuring the reliability and efficiency of water systems. This blog explores the lifecycle of field data collection in the context of water infrastructure, highlighting its pivotal role from initial assessments and design through to construction, maintenance, and eventual upgrades.

Initial assessments and planning

The lifecycle of field data collection begins with initial assessments and planning. Before any design work can commence, water utilities must gather extensive data on existing conditions. This includes topographical surveys, hydrological data, soil analysis, and existing infrastructure mapping. The objective is to understand the current state of the environment and infrastructure to inform decision-making.

Field data collected during this phase helps identify potential challenges and constraints. For example, topographical data can reveal areas prone to flooding, while soil analysis can determine the ground’s suitability for supporting new structures and reveal if soil corrosiveness has the potential to harm infrastructure such as water mains. Accurate data collection at this stage ensures that the planning and design phases are based on reliable information, reducing the risk of costly revisions later in the project.

Design and engineering

Once the initial assessments are complete, the focus shifts to the design and engineering phase. Here, detailed field data is crucial for creating accurate and feasible designs. Engineers rely on this data to model water flow, predict system behavior under various conditions, and design infrastructure that meets both current and future demands.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) play a significant role in this phase. GIS technology allows for the integration and analysis of spatial data, enabling engineers to visualize how different design options will interact with the existing environment. This data-driven approach helps in optimizing the design for efficiency, sustainability, and resilience.

For instance, precise elevation data can inform the design of drainage systems, ensuring that water flows away from critical areas and reduces the risk of flooding. Additionally, understanding the local hydrology helps in designing storage facilities and treatment plants that can handle peak loads during heavy rainfall events.

Construction and implementation

During the construction phase, field data collection continues to play a vital role. Real-time data collection ensures that the construction process adheres to the design specifications and that any deviations are promptly addressed. Surveyors and engineers on-site use various tools, such as GPS and laser scanning, to monitor progress and ensure accuracy.

One of the key aspects of data collection during construction is quality control. Regular checks and measurements ensure that the materials used and the construction techniques employed meet the required standards. For example, ensuring that pipe installations are at the correct gradient and that joints are properly sealed can prevent future leaks and system failures.

Furthermore, real-time data collection can help in identifying issues before they become major problems. For instance, if settlement of the ground is detected early, corrective measures can be taken to avoid structural damage tothe newly built infrastructure.

Maintenance and monitoring

Field data collection does not stop once the construction is complete. In fact, ongoing maintenance and monitoring are crucial for the long-term performance and reliability of water infrastructure. Regular data collection helps in identifying wear and tear, leaks, and other issues that may require intervention.

Advanced technologies, such as remote sensing and IoT (Internet of Things) devices, have revolutionized how field data is collected and analyzed during the maintenance phase. Sensors placed throughout the water infrastructure network can provide real-time data on various parameters, such as pressure, flow rate, and water quality. This continuous monitoring enables proactive maintenance, allowing water utilities to address issues before they escalate into costly repairs.

For example, data from pressure sensors can indicate a potential leak or blockage, prompting immediate investigation and repair. Similarly, water quality sensors can detect contamination, ensuring that corrective actions are taken to maintain safe water standards.

Upgrades and expansion

The final phase in the lifecycle of field data collection involves upgrades and expansion. As populations grow and demands on water infrastructure increase, utilities must plan for and implement upgrades to existing systems. Field data collection is essential in this phase to ensure that upgrades are compatible with existing infrastructure and that new installations are optimized for performance.

Data collected from previous phases informs the upgrade process. Historical data on system performance, maintenance records, and environmental conditions provide valuable insights into areas that require improvement. For example, if certain sections of the water network consistently experience low pressure, data analysis can help in redesigning those sections to enhance flow and distribution.

Moreover, field data collection is critical in planning for future expansion. Accurate data on current usage patterns and projected demand helps in designing systems that can accommodate growth without compromising efficiency or reliability.

The Role of technology in field data collection

Throughout the lifecycle of field data collection for water infrastructure, technology plays an increasingly important role. Innovations in data collection methods and tools have significantly enhanced the accuracy and efficiency of the process.

Drones, for instance, are now commonly used for aerial surveys, providing high-resolution images and topographical data that were previously difficult to obtain. These drones can cover large areas quickly and safely, reducing the time and cost associated with traditional survey methods.

Similarly, GIS technology allows for the integration of various data sources, providing a comprehensive view of the infrastructure and its environment. This integrated approach facilitates better decision-making and more effective planning and management.

IoT devices, as mentioned earlier, provide real-time monitoring capabilities, allowing for continuous data collection and analysis. These devices can detect anomalies and trigger alerts, enabling immediate response to potential issues.


Field data collection is integral to every phase of water infrastructure development and management. From initial assessments and design to construction, maintenance, and eventual upgrades, accurate and comprehensive data collection ensures that water utilities can deliver reliable and efficient services. 

Embracing advanced technologies and methodologies for field data collection doesn’t just enhance the accuracy and efficiency. It also contributes to the sustainability and resilience of water infrastructure systems. Investing in robust field data collection practices is essential to meet current challenges and future demands in water management.

Optimize your water infrastructure with Fulcrum field data collection

Ready to optimize your water infrastructure projects with precise field data collection? At Fulcrum, our experts can help you leverage advanced tools and technologies to gather, analyze, and apply field data effectively. Whether you’re in the initial planning stages of an expansion or managing ongoing maintenance, our team provides the insights and solutions you need to ensure reliable and efficient water systems. Contact us today to speak with an expert and take your water infrastructure management to the next level.