Guest Column | March 20, 2019

The Path To Resilience — Companies Leading The Digital Revolution In Water

By Graham Symmonds and Mary Conley Eggert, GlobalWaterWorks

FalseCreek

Throughout history, human civilization has been bounded by the spatial and temporal supply of water: too little or too much and our ancestors moved on or perished.  The advent of massive engineering projects, the availability of cheap power and human ingenuity gave us the benefit of being able to be decoupled from our relationship with water.  From the Romans to the Army Corps of Engineers, the traditional approach to water sustainability was to move dirt around.  Today, however, intense urbanization and population growth, water scarcity, and increasing intensity of storm events have put our engineered systems at risk, and rather than moving dirt, we are finding that we can get more out of our installed infrastructure, and our operations, by moving data and better understanding real-time conditions.

To achieve these goals, a fundamental shift is underway for technology companies: the transition from widgets to services.  Using the services model, technology companies can deliver on the core pillars of water:

  • Security – ensuring utility systems are resilient and robust enough to thrive under the larger impacts of changes in the volatility of the water cycle — short- and long-term drought response, flooding, and rapid fluctuations in water quality.
  • Availability – maximizing the embedded capacity in our existing infrastructure in the face of aging infrastructure and increasing population and urbanization.  Delivering water 24/7.
  • Affordability – increasing the efficiency of water utility operations (cost of service), which immediately translates into rate impacts for customers.
  • Sustainability – driving the efficient use of water by all users — municipal, industrial, commercial, and agriculture.  Understanding where, when, and how we are using water to incentivize conservation and stretch our existing water supplies further.

Water Challenges Are Facing Every Community

Recently, GlobalWaterWorks, together with the Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN) and the Water Environment Federation, convened a review of some of the most promising technologies available today, with each playing an important role in driving resilience in the utility environment.

A key aspect of each of these technologies is their role in digitally transforming water management, enabling operators to make decisions and to communicate in a timely fashion to address the core pillars:

Security

Aquatic Informatics is a unique amalgamation of three complementary water data management services: WaterTrax focused on water and wastewater compliance management; Linko driving industrial pretreatment compliance and management; and AQUARIUS, a source water monitoring and event detection system.  By automating and standardizing the response to data anomalies, Aquatic Informatics relieves staff from the tedium of data collection and review while increasing responsiveness to protect public health and the environment across the entire water cycle. 

OptiRTC provides a cloud-based platform for smart stormwater management. The Opti® Platform combines field-deployed sensors and flow controls with real-time, weather-based predictive services for continuous monitoring and adaptive control of stormwater infrastructure. By adding automation and technology to existing stormwater abatement systems, the Opti Platform optimizes their performance to reduce flooding as well as sanitary and combined sewer overflows. 

Real Tech provides real-time water quality spectral analysis via spectrophotometry that uses artificial intelligence to fingerprint water to identify issues with production/loss monitoring of liquid industries such as the dairy industry, black liquor spills, pollutant monitoring, and fate of contaminants assessments.  This has a direct impact on understanding source water quality and internal water efficiency.

s::can is a leader in the realm of water quality data as a service.  Combining a robust, selectable sensor suite, s::can brings the ability to monitor the instantaneous condition of all kinds of water: source, potable, wastewater — and gives utilities the ability to adjust treatment process to deliver a consistent product to their customers.  In addition, the ability to directly monitor the wastewater load and constituents allows utilities to maximize their industrial pretreatment programs and align charges to real-time data.

SmartCover Systems is a rapidly deployable Internet of Things (IoT) solution providing real-time system visibility for sewer and stormwater control and management.  Employing highly reliable satellite communications, SmartCover Systems is always available, and always analyzing parameters such as stream flow, tidal data, weather conditions, rain gauge data to maximize the operational availability and utility of stormwater and sewer collection systems.  By providing real-time insight into the condition of storm and sewer systems, SmartCover Systems helps optimize cleaning, repairs, and capital improvements, mitigating the risk of sewer overflows and arming operators with the data they need to be compliant.

Availability

Optimatics employs big data logged in utility systems to facilitate decision making in the face of uncertainty.  By layering in capital constraints, risk, rates, debt service, and other financial and infrastructure performance parameters, Optimatics evaluates millions of combinations and permutations to determine the optimal cost-based solution for any capital investment.  Further, because Optimatics uses cost-based analysis, their solutions drive operational efficiency into any CAPEX program.

Teledyne ISCO is a lead innovator in open channel flow and monitoring.  While confined pipe flow measurement is very precise, open-channel gravity flow is often a matter of parametric estimation.  Wastewater collection systems, agricultural delivery systems, runoff, and return-flow systems are a vital component of understanding how and where we use water.  Knowing these and other gravity flows in real-time is an important component of sustainability.  By employing a unique Doppler laser system, Teledyne ISCO can accurately and repeatably measure these flows, helping us define the true state of water use locally and globally.

Affordability

ADS optimizes Collection Systems Maintenance by deploying ultrasonic and pressure sensors.  With this data, ADS offers calibrated hydraulic models, infiltration and inflow investigations and control, CSO/SSO reporting and mitigation, and cleaning determinations based on condition.  Using a cellular communication network, ADS offers broad and efficient data collection services designed to reduce the operating costs of sewer and stormwater systems.

Drylet provides a microbe-delivery platform that maximizes the treatment efficiency of biological treatment systems. Incorporated into routine operations, Drylet’s easy-to-use solution dramatically reduces sludge volumes, improves overall operations, boosts biogas generation in anaerobic systems, and reduces operating expenses. Because Drylet is integrated with an optimized process-control model, their products and application protocols are tailored to each site, driving performance across treatment trains. The result: dramatically improved treatment operations at reduced costs.

Grundfos is a highly experienced, innovative pumping service provider. Grundfos provides the ability to analyze pump performance without the need for specific sensors.  Utilizing power consumption, discharge pressure, and the defined the system curve, Grundfos can identify pumps that are not operating on their curve and are therefore liable to be costing more to operate.  Further, by analyzing time-series data, Grundfos can distinguish between groundwater infiltration and rainwater infiltration in submerged systems.

Sustainability

Water reuse is one of the most cost-effective ways to extend water resources.  Fluence provides highly efficient, robust membrane aerated biological reactors (MABRs) for all applications, from building scale to municipal treatment works.  By combining nitrification and denitrification into one reactor, and optimizing the reduction of phosphorus and nitrogen, Fluence offers a compact and resilient way to produce water meeting California’s Title 22 standards in a small, energy-efficient footprint.

OSIsoft provides core functionality when it comes to democratizing data availability across the utility estate.  By breaking the silos between data systems OSIsoft allows staff to intersect, integrate, and interrogate any data source.  With OSIsoft as the “universal translator”, utilities can cross pollination information and data.  With built-in analytics functionality, OSIsoft allows for the realization of efficiency in both operations and CAPEX decisions.


The path to resilience means that we must get the most out of every drop of water, maximum value from every foot of installed infrastructure, and better understand the real-time condition of our assets and resources.  While there is no single “silver bullet” to solve our water scarcity and volatility issues, utilities can begin to implement practices and policies that drive sustainability.

As with transformative change in other industries, this goal will be achieved through maximizing the use of data across the entire utility ecosystem.  This convergence of data will not only allow for our utilities to operate more effectively but will be a key driver in maintaining our infrastructure, meeting our current and future demands, and assuring the resource and revenue stability of our utilities.

GlobalWaterWorks distills clear, marketable value propositions from water ideas. Focused on the confluence of digital marketing and the business of water, GWW aims to accelerate the adoption of smart water technologies to ensure the availability of clean, fresh water for future generations.  Executing this vision are Mary Conley Eggert, a digital marketing strategist, and Graham Symmonds, a water industry expert.   

Image credit: "False Creek Vancouver," Peter Addor © 2017, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/