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NetCreate: A digital solution to a global problem

  • NetCreate: digital solution to global problem

About the entity

SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business is one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies.

Globally, two billion people lack basic sanitation facilities. Planning and designing wastewater networks for this population would cost billions of dollars and at the current rate of progress, take decades to complete.

But this isn’t an issue we can afford to ignore. The World Bank links one in ten deaths in India to poor sanitation with over 300,000 deaths each year from diarrheal diseases alone. Inadequate discharge of untreated domestic / municipal wastewater has resulted in contamination of 75% of all surface water across India. With 56 % of the population lacking access to basic sanitation, India ranks first in the list of top 10 worst countries with basic sanitation facilities.

So, how do we create wastewater networks in these areas quickly and efficiently?

Enter NetCreate, an innovative digital process created by Atkins that uses global open source GIS datasets to automatically create an outline wastewater network on a repeatable basis. It brings together topographic data, road layouts and population distribution data to assign the route of least resistance from each property to the lowest point in the catchment along defined roads. Pipe sizes are assigned based on the number of customers; manholes are inserted at junctions and defined intervals on straight pipes. Cover levels are taken from topographic data; minimum gradients and pipe depths are based on good engineering practice.

A standardised approach makes it repeatable throughout countries or across regions, and configurable to client needs. The output from NetCreate can also be integrated into proprietary hydraulic modelling software.

Why is this so transformational?

The manual planning of wastewater networks is an inefficient, time-consuming activity, requiring extensive data collection for engineers to define pipe layouts against standard specifications. It is a labour-intensive repetitive process that takes years to complete.

NetCreate disrupts the traditional manual approach to the planning of wastewater network infrastructure by processing global open source GIS datasets through a digital platform. Using continuously updated data, NetCreate removes the need for costly time-consuming bulk data collection. As a digital solution, it can quickly process the data against defined rules to generate a high-level network.

A tried and tested solution

NetCreate has been used to generate wastewater network layouts for 150 catchments on a Master Plan in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for investment planning. It has also been used to plan a wastewater network layout for a catchment of 600,000 population in Lucknow India.

NetCreate offers significant time and cost benefits (80-90%) compared with the traditional, manual approach for developing high level layouts for wastewater networks. It will accelerate outline planning to allow early scope definition for schemes and programmes of work. This will allow funding to be allocated more quickly, and with greater certainty, to areas with greatest need and help to facilitate the implementation of sanitation schemes in developing countries

The provision of resilient sanitation schemes will help to reduce the risk of infectious diseases and improve health which will in turn attract business, create jobs and help develop the local economy. A WHO study in 2012 calculated that for every US$ 1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of US$ 5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.

A unique solution

NetCreate has the potential to permanently transform traditional ways of working on a massive scale. It demonstrates that digital technology is at its most powerful when used on a mass scale, bringing efficiencies to infrastructure design which can ‘turbo-boost’ sanitation planning in developing countries.

NetCreate has been modified to automatically generate water supply and treated sewage effluent networks and could be further developed to create other linear infrastructure networks such as stormwater, telecommunications (fibre optic / broadband), energy (gas / electric), district cooling and heating systems and sewer heat recovery systems – which if all designed together could ensure a fully coordinated, BIM compliant, utility layout for the catchment.

As well as accelerating the development of global sanitation infrastructure, NetCreate will benefit the poorest two billion people in the world who lack access to basic sanitation, helping to achieve UN Sustainability Goal No. 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all).

The automation and standardisation of wastewater network planning using opensource datasets has the power to not only transform the way we develop networks but to enable a better quality of life in the process. We believe NetCreate can help improve the lives of those who need it most and is truly the future of utility planning.