Time to get smart
Mike Strahand, a director of the Sensors for Water Interest Group and MD at Analytical Technologies Inc., says the industry needs to get to grips with smart distribution networks
In the developed world, potable water is delivered to people via a complex infrastructure consisting of water catchment, water treatment, water storage (reservoirs, towers) and water distribution (pipes).
The first two elements are well understood; what is less well understood is what happens to water as it journeys to the tap.
A potable water distribution system is a living organism – pipes are lined with biofilms and inorganic matter that react with the water on the way to the customers. The pipes pass through soil, under rivers, through cement; any small fissures or holes can lead to ingress and a further deterioration in water quality.
Today the water companies react, after the event, to these changes in water quality. The 'sensors' are often customers. This is too late. At best, we have manual water samples taken once every month or so. This operating regime does not make it possible to even think about real time control of distribution networks to maximise water quality, resilience, reduce operating costs.
We need to get a better, close to real-time understanding of our distribution networks so that we can manage them, predict events and better control the system. We need to get SMART.
We are at the beginning of a journey that will allow us to answer these questions. The journey towards smart water networks has begun. Some water companies are already several steps along the flightpath.
At a recent Innovation sprint event, the single biggest blocker to the uptake of smart water was identified as culture and the difficulty in getting all stakeholders to engage and collaborate. It was taken as read that the technology is not an issue.
The IoT, small power efficient water quality monitors, cloud-based platforms for data analysis, artificial intelligence, machine learning – all the technologies are there now.
No single provider can produce the sensors needed to measure the data, the data transfer systems (GSM, NBIoT) needed to move the data, the IP needed to analyse that data and deliver actions, the manpower and know-how needed to install and maintain the sensor and data collection infrastructure. No single water company will learn all the lessons needed on their own.
Technology is ready. Are you?
On 26 September at Sensing in Water 2019, SWIG will bring together suppliers, customers and academics to examine how we can maximise the use of sensors on the road to smart water networks. Click here for further details
- Water 4.0 and the wastewater cycle To make a success of Water 4.0, the industry needs to work from the bottom up, installing the right monitoring equipment... Read More >
- Focusing on what matters to customers Neil Croxton, Stantec's technical director - water distribution, on why it's not enough just to adopt new smart... Read More >
- Networking skills: MUS helps Leeds to smarten up Morrison Utility Services has delivered a groundbreaking smart water network project in Leeds on behalf of Yorkshire Water Read More >
- In the frame for delivery: UKWIR CEO on Ofwat's innovation competition With Ofwat confirming plans for a £200 million innovation competition which will run between 2020 and 2025, UKWIR chief... Read More >
- A digital revolution in water The UK Water Partnership (UKWP) has launched a 10-point action plan to help ensure that UK plc wins its share of an... Read More >
- Industry 4.0 - how to build a digital twin Chris Steele, head of information management and analytics at Black & Veatch Europe, runs through the steps required to... Read More >
- Rewarding excellence WWT content director Alec Peachey looks ahead to next year's Water Industry Awards. Read More >
- Refining water quality management As part of our Utility of the Future campaign, Nadine Buddoo looks at why maintaining water quality is a fundamental... Read More >