We can be more, together.
We can be more, together.

Case Study - Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District

Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District

Click here to download a pdf of the full case study

George Cardenas is “always hungry for more information.” As Engineering Manager for the Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District (CSD), he’s constantly seeking and finding ways to access and apply the system’s data, to make it work harder for the District and its nearly 20,000 residents.

Serving approximately 6,700 connections over an area of 118 square miles, the CSD was developing its GIS mapping system when Cardenas was introduced to Sedaru, IDModeling’s cloud-based utility intelligence software for water/wastewater utilities. Having worked with IDM five years before to prepare the CSD’s water system model and master plan, he was intrigued by Sedaru’s capabilities, and how this software could apply the District’s data towards creating a dynamic water model and asset management plan.

“I love technology,” Cardenas said, “and we were looking for an avenue for an easy-to-use field-mobile and decision support software. I’d seen other types of applications, including mobile, that were too cumbersome or complicated for our guys to input and access data.”

It was clear from the start that Sedaru was different. Intuitive. Simple. Especially when it came to his water model. Unlike other model software that Cardenas found overwhelming, Sedaru offered a solution that didn’t require a lot of experience to benefit from. He was excited that not only could he run his model, but stakeholders of the model could now receive benefits quickly, from mobile to field, to management and operations — so much so, that Cardenas called Sedaru the “Utility’s Model”.

In March 2013, the District implemented Sedaru, and quickly realized the benefits of its predictive capabilities. “It’s very important to us,” Cardenas said. “It makes it easy to access our model, to see what would happen if we close pipes or valves in our system. Our Operations Manager — who’s not a ‘tech guy’ — found it simple. He’s excited that he can now run ‘what-if’ scenarios himself, without having engineering do it.”

Already, Sedaru’s simulations are helping the District to identify, anticipate, and solve problems. “We ran into a situation where our field crew was flushing dead-end lines, when a call came in that a landfill ran a low pressure which set off a fire alarm. We opened Sedaru and ran a scenario on the hydrant being flushed. It showed that a valve would have to have been shut off at that location. It helped us direct field staff, and validate that on the east side of the line, there was a valve that had been turned closed, which was choking off the system.”

When Caltrans worked on improvements to State Route 138 in the area, the CSD ran scenarios in Sedaru to see the effects of shutting down a line that crossed the highway. “Using Sedaru, we tinkered with demand to come up with a solution for shutting down the line for a week. It was a tool to brainstorm, where we moved water around that location to provide what was needed to that part of the District.”

Cardenas is looking forward to expanding the CSD’s uses of Sedaru, as his team plans to gauge the impacts of new facilities on the system. On July 1, 2014, the State of California reduced the maximum contaminant level for Chromium-6 from 50 to 10 micrograms per liter of water. With some wells in the Phelan Hills area producing 12-15 micrograms per liter, Cardenas wants to simulate different piping configurations for blending from other District wells.

While Sedaru’s ability to predict the future has opened up new opportunities for engineering, operations, and water quality, among other utility functions, its real-time communications are providing increased efficiencies for field crews in the here-and-now.

“It’s really saving us time,” said Cardenas. “In the past two, three, four months, our field staff no longer has to input data from their clipboards into the database, which frees them up to resolve issues in the field, such as flushing and turning valves.” He added that this has also eliminated paperwork being shoved aside into file cabinets.

Using their own iPads, field personnel can easily send messages to the office, alerting supervisors in engineering or management of any inaccuracies on maps, such as hydrants shown where there are none. They can also take and send pictures of assets in the field, documenting exposed lines from recent rains or a hydrant that has been hit by a vehicle. By being able to relay this information in real-time, it allows operations to prioritize work and send crews to address events while they’re still out in the field. This real-time communication also facilitates communications with engineering for on-the-fly modeling and support. Engineering understands what is happening in the field, simulates the event, relays the impacted location(s), and recommends best course of action — in real-time, while documenting and archiving the entire event, communication-chain, and response.

Ironically, the first to use Sedaru in the field was the District’s Operations Manager — the last remaining team member to move from a “flip” phone to a smart phone. During a pot-holing operation, after the crew had been digging for an hour and a half for the mainline, the Operations Manager looked up the pipeline location on Sedaru, then guided himself several yards to the pipeline, and asked them to dig. And there it was.

“We saw how important it was for our field guys to see, access, input, and share data,” said Cardenas. “We knew we had to get every one of them a mobile device. We also knew that our guys would have to embrace the technology on their own. Initially, they feared that Sedaru would be an “out-of-the-box” app that would force them into a set way of doing things. After they saw how we had molded it to the District’s needs, and how configurable Sedaru is, they became excited. We showed them how they could streamline tasks — for instance, they could get a history of the last 50 entries for an asset in the field.”

So now, not only are the field crews running Sedaru, they’re “running with it” — coming up with ideas of their own to enhance their efficiencies.

Sedaru is quickly making a difference in the office as well. In terms of conservation and water quality, it will help the CSD monitor — in real-time — trends regarding its steadily depleting groundwater levels — a crucial benefit, considering that 100 percent of the water consumed in the Phelan Hills area comes from groundwater. According to Cardenas, the District can also “identify areas in the system that require more flushing throughout the year, showing those ‘hot spots’ using Sedaru’s mapping.” He added that management is looking to complete a water quality project where Sedaru would collect data from looped dead-end mains, show through a predictive model the impacts and/or benefits of frequent flushing, and help reconfigure the system to address projected water quality issues.

What happens next for the CSD and Sedaru? “We’re looking to incorporate CIS and SCADA into our Sedaru system so that our office can communicate-out to our field guys,” said Cardenas. “And as we build on data we get through Sedaru, the more information we have, the more we can plan and communicate.Imagining all the data we’ll have connected and communicating in one, shared platform gets our blood pumping.”


  • Easily and quickly locates assets in the field
  • Runs scenarios to predict impacts of shutting down water lines or valves
  • Field staff no longer inputs data from clipboards, freeing them to resolve issues such as flushing and turning valves
  • Operations can prioritize work and send crews to address events while they’re still in the field
  • Monitors trends regarding depleting groundwater levels
SEDARU FEEDS THE NEED FOR A SIMPLE, MOBILE DATA-DRIVEN SOLUTION George Cardenas is “always hungry for more information.” As Engineering Manager for the Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District (CSD), he’s constantly seeking and finding ways to access and apply the system’s data, to make it work harder for the District and its nearly 20,000 residents.