How digitization is helping cities provide clean water


Communities around the world are turning to smart water management solutions to ensure supply resiliency, says Gary Wong, Industry Principal – Water and Smart Cities at AVEVA

The twin challenges of urbanization and climate change are taking their toll in the form of increasing water scarcity in cities around the world.

More and more people are moving to urban areas – already half of the world’s population (55%) lives in cities, and that United Nations expects that number to increase to two-thirds (68%) within a few decades. At the same time, large parts of the world are already being affected by droughts due to climate change eroding coasts and livelihoods disappear. 2022, People suffer from water scarcity, while nearly 160 million children face severe and prolonged drought.

Although more than 70% of the planet is covered with water, only 3% of that is drinkable, and a significant portion of these freshwater resources are locked in glaciers and ice caps. Worse, water demand is projected to increase by 30% by 2050, with the UN forecasting a global water deficit of up to 40% by 2030.

In response, more and more cities are imposing water restrictions to address the problem. Santiago and Los Angeles are two of the newest. national governments The Netherlands to Brazil have also formulated policy frameworks to regulate water production and management.

Ensuring access to water – a fundamental right for all and part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – increasingly requires real-time, on-site management that helps circumvent the challenges of increasing water scarcity.

To that end, communities around the world are turning to digital technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to meet their water security needs. By generating valuable predictive business insights and improving operational resilience, these smart city solutions can help government agencies understand water needs, conserve existing water sources, and minimize leakage to increase the availability of clean water for all.

How Naples manages water systems remotely

As hybrid workplaces become the norm but supply and distribution challenges increase, digital technologies are already supporting water and wastewater management.

Gori centralizes water supply for 74 Italian communities in and around Naples, including Salerno, Mount Vesuvius and the island of Capri, taking on a patchwork of local providers. But calibrating the delivery of 207 million cubic meters of water to more than 1.5 million people over a 4,000 km network as a single entity became unmanageable on a scale. A 2,240 km long sewage network with 13 sewage treatment plants exacerbates the problem.

Gori’s SCADA team turned to digital technology to balance their significant operational challenges while reducing energy consumption. The smart city solution implemented an integrated suite of software products that provides operators with single-window access from both fixed and mobile stations. Since implementing the system, Gori’s operations have seen both efficiency and sustainability gains. For example, at the Mercato Palazzo plant, the remote monitoring and control system has resulted in a 45% reduction in energy consumption, or savings of around €80,000 per month.

How the City of Salem predicts and ensures water quality

The impacts of climate change complicate water management for utilities around the world, as events such as droughts and changing rainfall patterns change patterns of water availability.

The city of Salem, Oregon faces a different kind of water quality threat. Warming temperatures have led to increased outbreaks of dangerous algal blooms on the lakes and rivers that supply the city with drinking water. Many of these algae produce dangerous cyanotoxins that pose significant challenges for water utilities, including serious safety concerns and costly interventions in treatment processes. One such four-day event in 2018 led to a month-long drinking water advisory session and eventually a declaration of a state of emergency.

The city turned to a cloud-based data management platform to ensure it was never caught unawares like this again. The scalable cloud data management platform brought together live data points such as water depth, weather information, water turbidity, satellite imagery and laboratory samples in a single, web-based interface. City officials then share this unified information in real time with engineers, ecologists, mathematicians and other analysts.

The program brings previously inaccessible data sources within the reach of officials, allowing them to perform predictive analytics that predict the need for water treatment a week before algal blooms and toxic hazards. That is enough time for operators to take corrective actions, such as Such as replacing pumps and filters or rerouting the flow of water to ensure Salem residents always have clean and safe drinking water.

How Puerto Rico improves asset resilience and efficiency

Improving asset efficiency can result in immediate increases in production while increasing asset resilience and cost savings. The Caribbean Territory of Puerto Rico lacks a source of fresh water. However, with more than three million inhabitants and as many annual visitors, the demand for water continues to grow. The system that serves them has grown to over 10,000 miles of water mains and aqueducts and 2,000 miles of sewers between 1,500 sites serving the island’s five regions. The island’s varied and remote terrain means better visibility and less travel are key.

Puerto Rico’s Water and Sanitation Authority, already one of the most advanced utilities in the world, recently transitioned to a fully automated system with an integrated suite of solutions to balance the conflicting goals of increased water discharge, EPA compliance, improved efficiency and reduced costs bring to .

Manual operations have been eliminated wherever possible to proactively manage all aspects of the water and wastewater systems. Real-time diagnostics allowed operators to monitor the quality of water and wastewater treatment processes, troubleshoot problems and make timely changes that will help prevent violations of regulations.

Tangible results included clean, EPA-compliant water, fewer shutdowns, and improved customer satisfaction. Production has increased from 12 million gallons to 20-30 million gallons while saving an estimated $15 million over seven years.

Smart water solutions improve access to water

With the increasing frequency, severity, and complexity of water crises, human efforts alone cannot solve the escalating water challenges facing the world’s cities today.

Fortunately, the use of digital water technologies is transforming water and wastewater management in urban areas around the world. Through intelligent water management, municipalities and utilities can improve resource efficiency, optimize supplies, maintain water quality, and predict maintenance needs—all while avoiding costly disruptions. This can improve affordable access to water for everyone. Technology can help alleviate the water crisis – if we use it properly.

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