Water utilities walk path to digitisation


Friday, 12 April, 2019

Water utilities walk path to digitisation

Water utilities may be sceptical about embarking on expensive capital upgrades as part of a digital transformation journey. But there are inexpensive alternatives that allow water operators to move from reactive control to proactive management via digitisation of existing infrastructure.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently made headlines when he announced the intention to invest $2.5 billion in new clean-water projects as a first step to addressing what the governor sees as an $80 billion need, in the state of New York, to upgrade water systems.

“Water utilities can sometimes be in a tricky situation when it comes to CAPEX requirements,” said Paul Banfield, Segment Director for the Water and Wastewater Segment, AVEVA. “Service levels are often a higher priority over making large profits, so long and expensive digital transformation projects can be hard to justify.”

Banfield said that while not every water utility has the same access to capital funds as New York, they all share the same critical challenges — ageing infrastructure, unprecedented demand growth, increasing environmental pressures and a community demanding higher water-quality standards.

“If massive capital upgrades are beyond reach, there is an alternative approach that uses high-quality simulation and modelling of water networks,” said Banfield. “This is coupled with real-time information from existing sensors and SCADA systems, to give water network operators the tools they need to optimise their operations based on existing infrastructure investment.”

Banfield said AVEVA is seeing a shift in the water industry as digitalisation is getting cheaper, faster and more impressive than ever. “Every day we see examples from our colleagues around the world having successful conversations with water utilities. And the thing that all have in common is putting forward a project that delivers real value to the utilities.

“For example, opportunities for operators using water network simulation and optimisation include the ability to:

  1. forecast the behaviour of the water network and predict the impact of planned and unplanned events with what-if scenarios;
  2. trace water quality evolution through the network by predicting the spread of contaminants or additives system-wide based on sampling locations;
  3. predict and locate leaks in the system quickly and respond with optimal tactics to minimise loss and customer impact; and
  4. reduce energy costs by optimising pump operation and reservoir levels based on fluctuating demand.”

According to Banfield, given the attractive return on investment metrics of these projects, water utilities around the world are already investing in them. “For example, a number of AVEVA customers in Scandinavia are leading the way in the use of water-network simulation and optimisation to reduce their operating costs while enhancing their ability to meet customer demands:

  • The city of Oslo is modelling over 1550 km of water pipes in order to obtain a real-time overview of their water network.
  • In Kalundborg, Denmark, the water operator is leveraging AVEVA’s Aquis Water Network Management solution to move from a ‘hunch-based’ decision-making process to one based on facts presented in real time.
  • VCS Denmark has done the same thing in Odense, where a 150-year-old water utility is now operating with a greater sense of security based on modelling and simulation results.
  • In Ølgod, Denmark, Aquis is being used to predict the changing direction of flow in a ring-connected supply network and predict contaminant levels when a pollution event occurs.

“In every case, the water utility has benefited from greater visibility into the present and future behaviour of their network,” concluded Banfield.

Paul Banfield is the Water & Wastewater Segment Director for AVEVA in Australia and New Zealand. With more than 30 years’ experience around the use of technology and innovation in the water industry, he is focused on enabling water utilities to unlock the maximum value from their digital transformation journey.
Before joining AVEVA, Paul held a number of commercial roles starting and managing regional subsidiaries, working with channel partners and leading direct sales teams working with numerous clients across the globe.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/antiksu

For further information: visit sw.aveva.com/water-and-wastewater.

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