Raasheed Pakwashi, Technical Director - SME Water
Pete Diffley, Sr. Manager Global Partnerships - Trihedral
Mahesh Lunani, Founder & CEO - Aquasight
Ainhoa Lete, CoFounder & CEO - BuntPlanet
Calanit Bar Am, PhD. & Dave Johnston - Mueller
Chung-leung WONG, Director of Water Supplies - WSD
Rebecca Losli, Program Manager - Project Clear
Elly Perets, CEO - Utilis
Philip Briscoe, Chief Operating Officer - Rezatec
Andreas Ratzberger, Head of R&D for Innovation Management - Hawle
Jérôme Floch, Product Manager - LACROIX Sofrel
Nicholas Law, Senior Account Manager - The Met Office
Sophie Altmeyer, Technical Manager - HYDREOS
Meena Sankaran, Founder & CEO - KETOS Inc.
James Dunning, CEO - Syrinix
Andrew Kodis, Executive VP - Olea Edge Analytics
Sarah Braman, Water Engineer - Town of Cary, NC
Matteo Viccardi, Export Manager - Isoil Industria Spa
Mulundu Sichone, Founder & CEO - Pydro
Tom Woolley, Aquasuite Business Development Director - Royal HaskoningDHV
"Treatment and storage solutions are great but knowing what’s in our water, in a scalable automated way might be the next step in building a cohesive solution for a smarter, sustainable and safer future."
"Few sectors face the scale and complexity of the challenges that are emerging in the water sector as climate change, population growth and urbanisation pressures combine."
"Opportunities to improve collaboration with utilities include improved data sharing and shortened procurement processes."
"Having technology platforms that encouraged town-wide collaboration was vital for realizing our vision of an collaborative and innovative culture."
"The industry definitely needs motivated young professionals with different skills and backgrounds to integrate new technology and break down challenges in to smaller localised concepts and solutions."
"The sooner we can explain the problems and causes of water scarcity to each other, the sooner we can start thinking about solutions. Each of us is responsible to inform our peers about subjects which are important for our planet."
"There are great platforms to learn more about the industry and build a good network of friends, colleagues and suppliers who can help meet future challenges."
We spoke with Raasheed Pakwashi about SME Water's growth, their experience in the UK water industry, and being a finalist with the United Utilities' Innovation Lab. SME Water is a start-up that specialises in clean water pressure and hydraulic modelling, using contemporary analysis and data science techniques to deliver complex projects. The team use their extensive subject knowledge of water network behaviour and engineering insights to ensure projects deliver tangible and sustainable benefits.
As a fast-growing start-up, what challenges is SME Water working to solve in the UK water space?
Since being founded in 2018, we have been working in an extremely exciting space in the water industry. Combining our extensive subject knowledge of water distribution network management with modern analysis and data science techniques, we have been helping a number of UK water companies reduce their leakage.
In recent years, there has been a real push into understanding how acoustic sensors can be used to effectively locate leaks. However, acoustic devices are not suitable for all types of networks. This is one of the reasons we’ve been doing some extensive work using pressure sensors; understanding how they too can become part of the leakage technician’s toolkit. Dynamo, our event recognition tool, uses pressure data to highlight changes in flow on the network, which enables us to locate bursts faster. One of the key advantages of pressure logging over acoustic logging, is that it can be combined with other data sources, including hydraulic models, to help identify, investigate, and resolve network and demand anomalies.
Given the challenges presented by the pandemic, how has SME Water adapted to working from home?
Striking the balance between office and home working has always been an interesting debate. However, the pandemic presented us with the opportunity to explore the realms of remote working.
One of the things I have truly learnt to appreciate is how unique everyone’s individual circumstances are, which is easy to lose sight of when working in the office day in, day out. As a small company, we found the transition to working from home pretty seamless, our employees adapted well, and their work was unaffected. Even so, ‘the new norm’ did pose some challenges for us, as our office was a place for us to collaborate and generate new ideas. That being said, it gave us the perfect opportunity to adopt new tools and solutions. The Miro whiteboard is our new favourite!
Something else that we have found extremely effective is, what we call, our ‘temperature check’. At the start of team meetings, each employee will score their ‘temperature’ out of 10. Employees are encouraged to give some commentary to explain their number. It doesn’t need to be work related or accurate, it’s all relative. It’s an opportunity for our employees to raise concerns, or to perhaps share and celebrate something that has gone well for them that week. We have been doing it for around six months now, and I feel as though we have created a real setting for employees to openly talk about how they are feeling.
SME Water was recently accepted to the United Utilities Innovation Lab. Can you tell us more about this exciting opportunity?
We are really excited to be part of United Utilities’ Innovation Lab. We’re using both statistical and machine learning techniques, in the form of our Component Demand Analysis Model (CDAM), to explore and understand how customer demand varies throughout the year. We have already delivered some great insights with United Utilities, investigating variations in consumption brought about by Ramadan and school holidays. These form the first two components of our model.
As our analysis continues, we will begin to investigate the effects of university student migration and the impact of lockdown as a result of COVID-19. Each of these factors will become an additional component of our model. When analysing individual District Metered Areas (DMAs), we’ll stack components on top of one another to see the combined effect on customer demand and reported leakage.
In a time when water companies are progressively trying to reduce their leakage, the ability to confidently differentiate leakage from changes in customer demand offers significant benefit. This insight will allow leakage teams to locate and target leaks much faster, thereby reducing lost water and the impact on the customer.
Why should young professionals choose a career in the water industry?
There is no better time for young professionals to join the water industry! If you want to work within an industry that faces infinite challenges and uncertainties, and where innovation and collaboration are key, then look no further.
There is considerable scope for fresh ideas and solutions globally within the industry, and this isn’t likely to change any time soon.
We caught up with Pete Diffley to learn more about Trihedral, gain some automation industry perspective, and discuss some recent project successes. Trihedral Engineering Limited was founded in 1986 with the goal of creating the world’s most capable, reliable HMI and SCADA software. For 35 years, VTScada has served as Trihedral’s sole software product.
The theme of VTScada’s Roundtable session at the recent AWWA/SWAN Smart Water Symposium was “The cost of failure - Why Mission-Critical should be your mission.” Can you share some of the key takeaways?
We used the analogy of a sinkhole to explain that often utilities may be on the verge of a catastrophic control system failure, while everything looks pretty normal from above the surface leading to much larger costs than ever expected. This is mostly due to three areas; system architecture, cybersecurity, and the cost and complexity of recovery. Utilities can often think they have created a resilient system that can deal with all eventualities but the gaps are often masked by complexity. Our key recommendations are to look for unified system architecture, as the more unified a system is, the more tested it is by others globally, not just by the utility itself. Regarding cybersecurity, there is always a ‘first time’. Many times the approach is to only concentrate on keeping threats out. Our thought is to assume the hackers are in and look for the impact that would cause. Finally, systems that require manual data synchronization or other such data recovery procedures often cost utilities a significant amount of time, money, and other resources to recover data. Manual entry of data might even be required that also increases the error factor, resulting in future decision-making mistakes.
VTScada was recently acquired by Delta Electronics. Can you share how this has influenced your strategic goals?
Delta Electronics initially approached our company regarding a global partnership to help continue to grow their business in the control system market. Most people wouldn’t realize that Delta is one of the largest manufacturers globally of power supplies, VFDs, and many other control system components. The company’s products are used by the leading brand-names of the electronics electrical /tech world. The chances are that the device you are reading this article on uses significant components from Delta. This has expanded the VTScada universe. The company examined the architecture of our product versus other leading SCADA / IIoT software and concluded that we should be the leading software platform for the company.
Our vision is to increase significantly, our market share in the control system world through our relationship. Trihedral and VTScada continue as is, both as a company and brand but now with the strength of a large entity to help us achieve this goal.
VTScada is now undertaking one of the largest ever SCADA treatment plant installations in Houston. Can you explain why this project is significant?
This is currently one of the largest active capital water projects in the US, at a cost of, US$1.4 billion. After over a year of evaluation by the City of Houston consultant, in collaboration with the Houston Waterworks Team, a joint venture between CDM Smith and Jacobs Engineering (formerly CH2M), two of the largest consultants in North America, we were awarded the contract. Considering we were up against other leading names in the SCADA / controls industry, it has been a great endorsement of the power, reliability, and flexibility of VTScada. This is a large, complex project involving the expansion of Houston’s water treatment facilities, to help meet the growing drinking water demands for what is the fourth largest city in the US. The utility is expanding the Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) from 80 MGD to 400 MGD. When completed, it will occupy 90-acres and include twin 108” diameter water mains.
The SCADA system architecture is quite complex but thankfully is something well within the scope of VTScada, connecting with 200 PLCs, and will feature quad redundant, load-balanced IO servers, quad redundant alarm notification system, and fully replicated, real-time synchronized historians. Most SCADA systems struggle to have primary and backup type redundancy. This project has four levels. Other projects we have completed have had even more. The project has begun and the expanded system is scheduled for completion in 2024.
What motivated VTScada to join SWAN and get involved in the SWAN Americas Alliance?
I came to know SWAN in its earliest years when I worked for Xylem. I felt that smart water was something we should embrace so encouraged our head of strategy to sign us up as a partner. I was honored to be asked to join the team at Trihedral at the very end of 2019, so becoming a partner of SWAN was an instant thought, considering how much of the company’s market is in smart water! The team has a huge amount to bring to the water industry but has largely remained out of the spotlight, quietly winning large products such as Houston to name but one. I think there is a misconception about SCADA that it is somehow old news or old technology. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Terms such as IoT/IIoT/Digital Water/Digital Transformation have stolen the spotlight in some ways but most people forget that the SCADA industry embraced this decades ago. Time moves on, and so does SCADA with it or even ahead of it. My approach within SWAN has been to help utilities better understand the available technologies, being very open to all-new levels of technology and thinking but also providing some guidance on what may be ‘snake oil’ offerings so that everyone gets the best results possible. Anyone can say that they can monitor and control water infrastructure using technology. The question is, can they do it, 100% of the time, safely and securely? Water is a critical component, essential to life. We can’t afford to make a mistake. Just look at the headlines.
As the workforce is rapidly changing, what is your advice for young professionals hoping to build a career in the smart water sector?
Smart water is an amazing career opportunity to be involved in. Many things in life are nice to have but not essential to have. Being part of a community that keeps the world alive is quite emotionally fulfilling. There are lots of opportunities out there in water (especially in the controls sector). I heard a great term recently.. the “silver tsunami” - that wave that is passing over the water industry as the experience is carried but sometimes lost as the age of the water workforce gets steadily more mature. Young professionals are an essential part of the renewal process. Both young and old thinking, collaborating on what is a critical component of our future brings with it fantastic and exciting opportunities. I would highly recommend considering it.
Aquasight's solution taps into 100's of sensors already installed in the water and wastewater network and provides real-time efficient pumping energy management, resident leak detection, water loss auditing and accounting, future water quality predictions, determining infiltration and inflows in the sewer collection network, forecasting incoming flows and wastewater characteristics, identifying real-time recipe to treat wastewater, conducting sewage surveillance to provide early warning and neighbourhood hotspots for infectious diseases (e.g. COVID-19) and finally real-time asset health monitoring and warning.
Q: How can water utilities tap into their existing resources to empower their workforce and achieve operational efficiency?
Water is a stressed sector. Different parts of the world face different challenges and hence solutions may vary. There is, however, one underlying commonality, that utilities want to do more with less by figuring out how to tap into existing resources and maximise their use. This area is precisely our focus by tapping into internal or external data resources, often in real-time, to empower the workforce and achieve efficiency (i.e., by reducing rates) and minimise risks (i.e., creating a clean environment). This helps the utility workforce efficiently run their operations, use less energy, chemicals and manpower, act on anomalies, and set up predictive maintenance by leveraging the very data that they already generate. Our algorithms and technology are smart enough to handle any level of complexity and variations of utilities. The shared platform we have across utilities ensures that the value utilities generate over time increases disproportionately.
Q: Aquasight uses Artificial Intelligence to integrate datasets. What are the main benefits a utility should expect when merging datasets?
We are able to combine data from collection system pump stations and sewer shed flows with ocean levels and rain to estimate real-time I&I. We can compare the data against previous datasets to track improvements over time, but also to understand the sewer shed behaviours in real-time. To identify water loss, we merge real-time supply and consumption meters to detect leaks in residential homes. In the case of sewage surveillance, we are able to intelligently merge lab data on COVID-19 with sewer shed flows, travel time, temperature, and the population to estimate minimum peak shedders and provide early warning of one week in advance on the spread of COVID-19. These are some of the solutions Aquasight deployed and implemented that customers are using successfully.
Q: What are some unique water challenges Aquasight discovered about US utilities and what do you think US utilities should learn from the global water sector?
Within the US, water challenges are both regional and nationwide. Challenges include declining revenues in the rust belt, ageing infrastructure in the Northeast, water quality issues in South, water shortages on the West Coast, fragmentation of utilities and the cost of water. It is extremely difficult to transplant from other countries- policy or structure or pricing solutions since they are driven by local politics. However, the supply chain is global, so one can adopt and pick-up point solutions, such as treatment, or desalination or smart water systems or sensor technology. I believe that is where the opportunities exist.
Q: Young professionals are growing up in the digital age, but the water and wastewater sectors don’t always stand out as obvious career choices. How can we engage more young professionals to join the water workforce?
I talk about this with my guests in the 21st Century Water podcast. The water sector does not rank among the top sectors that college graduates want to work for (unless of course, you are an environmental or civil engineer). We need to improve the skill mix of people who are joining the sector. It will be impossible to innovate if everyone thinks the same way or is cut from the same cloth. The key to attracting this new skill mix is to understand why the sector is not attractive. Is it because it is a public sector? Is it a willingness to change careers or the trajectory of change? Is it salaries and compensation? Is it a career path and growth? We need to understand the reasons so we can plan for the changing workforce. With that said, I can tell you that utility CEOs are thinking about this and are coming up with their own programs in their local communities. I have spent time in other industries and think more can be done in the water sector. It is a whitespace and an opportunity.
BuntPlanet was founded in 2000 with the idea of offering software engineering services to leading technology companies. Our first client was Siemens in Germany. Our goal is to use software to improve the planet. In 2007, we entered the water sector and now our challenge is to reduce water losses in the world. We love challenges and projects that push us to the limits of software possibilities.
Q: What inspired BuntPlanet to pivot from a technological services company to focus on the water sector?
Innovation is at the core of BuntPlanet’s DNA and our aim has always been to make a positive impact in the world by applying technology solutions. In 2007 we took our first custom software project into the water sector, for a highly innovative water utility located in our region.
We witnessed the early adoption of the first smart metering systems and implemented the first cloud solutions that were required to manage huge amounts of data generated by AMI technology. The concept of ‘Big Data’ was emerging and the potential of these large volumes of data gradually became apparent. We were inspired by the needs and the vision of this advanced water utility, and some years later, we decided to apply our software knowledge to address water losses.
We offer a SaaS solution based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and hydraulic simulation, which led to the birth of BuntBrain. We were also the first company in the world to successfully implement a virtual DMA - a new concept for detecting and pre-locating any anomaly in the water network.
Q: Can you give insight into the relationship between Industry 4.0 and climate change?
Digitalisation in general and AI, in particular, will be keys to solving major challenges the world is already facing and will continue to face in the next decade. The increasingly extreme weather conditions due to climate change will lead to more frequent droughts and flooding. We can no longer afford to waste our planet’s precious resources of freshwater.
Sophisticated algorithms can enhance human capabilities to make faster and better decisions. Industry 4.0 – Big Data technology, hydraulic simulation and the deployment of AI – will enable us to better manage water resources, by avoiding water losses and minimising the impact of flooding events.
Q: We read about BuntPlanet’s partnership with Siemens to tackle water loss. What is the goal of this collaboration? And what do you want utilities to know about water losses?
It is an honour to collaborate with Siemens, one of the most innovative companies in the world, and which has a global presence and vast marketing capabilities. Through this partnership, we are much better positioned to rapidly roll out our software than we would have been able to do on our own. One important advantage for us is that Siemens is already educating utilities about the value of the data generated by the devices installed within the water utility’s network and how to use this data to improve their network management (e.g. such as flow meters, pressure sensors, and customer meters). Our software uses the information collected from these devices to reduce both ‘apparent losses’ (water which is used but not paid for, due perhaps to a faulty meter) and ‘real losses’ such as leakages.
We want utilities to understand that the best practice is to detect water leaks at an early stage – this can help avoid small leaks which might turn into a large leak and ultimately to a burst pipe – which is costly to repair and can cause further disruptions in the water network. In partnership with Siemens, it is easier to convince a water utility to take a holistic, ‘big picture’ approach to manage their water network and to address water losses as part of the overall management of the water network.
Q: As an AI software company, what skills and experiences do you recommend for young professionals eager to join the water sector?
The water industry is about more than just algorithms. Young professionals entering the water industry need a range of skills in order to apply new technologies such as AI to real-life scenarios. At BuntPlanet, it is also important that our young professionals are enthusiastic and love what they do. If they care about the future of the world then we provide them with a work environment where they can use technology to improve the planet!
Calanit E. Bar Am, PhD., VP Global Technology Solutions & Dave Johnston, Director of Smart Infrastructure - Mueller Water Products
Mueller Water Products, Inc., is a manufacturer and marketer of products and services used in the transmission, distribution and measurement of water in North America. Mueller's broad product and service portfolio include engineered valves, fire hydrants, metering products and systems, leak detection and pipe condition assessment to help municipalities increase operational efficiencies, improve customer service and prioritise capital spending.
Q: As a leading manufacturer in the water industry, and a recognised distributor of fire hydrants, how do you integrate solutions for your smart water operations?
Leveraging over 160 years of experience in the water industry, Mueller strives to integrate technology in such a way that does not compromise the original intent of the product. Mueller has a dominant market share of hydrants in North America. We developed the Sentryx™ software-enabled Super Centurion® smart hydrant, a holistic solution for water loss management that is a fully functional hydrant as a fire protection device.
We coupled the hydrant with diverse types of sensors, leak detection, condition assessment technology and flow meters, to integrate and analyse this data. This helps us uniquely position Mueller as offering comprehensive data-driven solutions for utilities, asset managers and O&M crews.
For example, the technology and data from leak detection nodes are coupled with pressure sensors and DMA flow sensors that are integrated into one platform called Sentryx™ Water Intelligence Platform. Using complementary data from all three sources improves water loss management and enables asset managers to better plan for ageing or failing infrastructure.
Q: Can you share some benefits or unexpected outcomes from Mueller’s smart water technology rollouts?
The integrated platform has opened our capacity to develop new and unique products with holistic solutions for data, software and analysis. By adding other quality features such as turbidity, pH levels, and temperature we can build new solutions to help utility managers, asset owners, and operation crews cut costs and optimise their system performance. The platform also connects to IoT devices through wireless service providers and a cloud-based architecture, and if the fire department has an emergency, the smart hydrant will not slow them down.
Q: How can utilities leverage Mueller’s products to keep up with the culture of digitalisation in the new normal?
Mueller has a unique position in the market where we can offer digital solutions that are directly integrated with the core infrastructure: pipes, valves and hydrants. For example, we retrofit the existing hydrant install base to be “smart”.
Utilities can mix and match Mueller sensors, water meters, and condition assessment on the platform to better manage their system, and when a pipe needs repair or a valve needs to be replaced, Mueller has the required products and solutions. By using the infrastructure and IoT devices to collect essential operating characteristics, water utility operators can have insights into the health of their water network. This will allow them to take preventative action before potentially costly failures and disruptions to service.
Q: What is your advice for young professionals joining the water industry’s workforce?
The water industry is dealing with many challenges such as ageing infrastructure, climate change, limited budgets, and evolving water systems, but we are also in the midst of a digital revolution. This requires us to be smarter in how we manage water resources and water systems. Additionally, as we face a pandemic that requires us to socially distance and remote work, we must stop working in silos and start collaborating across disciplines. Asset managers, O&M, IT, finance and procurement need to work together, as a team, to address our challenges. We recommend embracing technology and collaboration as a prerequisite for your success. Be proactive and set goals to drive change within your organisation and make contributions to a more sustainable water industry for generations to come.
The WSD has the mission of providing safe, adequate and reliable water supply to Hong Kong, a cosmopolitan city with a population of approximately 7.5 million. WSD is taking forward several major initiatives on drinking water safety in particular in enhancing monitoring and control of internal plumbing systems; water security to cope with the impact of climate change by developing new water resources of seawater desalination and recycled water; water conservation through implementation of education and publicity programmes, and water loss management; and supply system reliability through asset management.
Q: Can you share some of the main challenges with regards to water supply in Hong Kong?
The water supply networks in Hong Kong comprise more than 8,000 kilometres (km) of water mains. However, due to Hong Kong’s hilly terrain and with many residential and commercial developments and government facilities at high altitude, the operating pressure in the water supply networks is generally higher than those of other cities in order to maintain adequate pressure for premises at high grounds. In addition, the water supply networks in Hong Kong are mostly underground and in densely populated areas, with congested underground utilities, busy traffic and frequent roadwork causing vibration and disturbance to the water mains. These factors create a higher risk of water main bursts and leakages in the water supply networks.
WSD has spared no effort in replacing and rehabilitating nearly 3,000 km of aged water mains from 2000 to 2015. This has improved the condition of the water supply networks significantly, evidenced by substantial reductions of water main bursts from about 2,500 to 40 bursts between 2000 and 2019, and a reduction in the leakage rate of freshwater mains from 25% to 15% over the same period.
Moving ahead, WSD is implementing a new system called the Water Intelligent Network (WIN). This involves the establishment of over 2,000 District Metering Areas (DMAs) to cover the whole freshwater supply distribution network as well as installing a Water Intelligent Network Management System (INMS) to monitor water loss in the DMAs. This will also help determine the priorities and most effective measures to tackle water loss in individual DMAs, including active leakage detection and control; water pressure management; quality and speedy repair of water main bursts and leaks; and replacement or rehabilitation of water mains that are beyond economical repair through conventional trench opening or trench-less methods such as pipe jacking and horizontal directional drilling.
WSD is also adopting international best practices for water main asset management and for maintaining the healthiness of mains in the water supply networks through a risk-based approach.
Q: What motivated Hong Kong WSD to join SWAN and get involved in the SWAN Asia-Pacific (APAC) Alliance?
In taking forward the various initiatives mentioned above, WSD endeavours to adopt the latest technologies and smart solutions which would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of these initiatives. By joining SWAN, WSD can share and exchange experience and knowledge with water professionals from leading water utilities, solution providers, research institutes, academics and regulators from around the world to tackle the various water challenges faced by the global water industry.
Q: How does smart water fit into Hong Kong’s “Smart City Blueprint”? And what smart water innovations is WSD most interested in and why?
The Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint covers six major areas, including the "Smart Environment" which encompasses the various smart water initiatives being pursued by WSD, such as WIN and INMS as mentioned above. WSD is also developing a smart water model for new development areas, incorporating various smart water initiatives, such as online water quality monitoring, real-time flow and pressure monitoring, smart pressure management, automatic meter reading, WIN, and more.
Moreover, WSD is interested and exploring the development of digital twins for water supply networks which we envisage will offer huge benefits in all stages of the life cycle of water mains including their operation, water loss management, and asset management.
Q: Can you share advice for young professionals hoping to start their career in the water sector?
In a time of unprecedented technological advancement, it is particularly crucial for young professionals who wish to develop their career in the water sector to keep abreast of and embrace the adoption of technologies in their work. In addition, they should have a global vision of the latest developments and challenges in the water sector worldwide by making good use of the support networks such as the Rising Smart Water Professionals (RiSWP) established by SWAN.
In 2012, the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) launched Project Clear in response to a Consent Decree agreement between MSD, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. MSD Project Clear serves approximately 1.3 million people over 520 square miles and five major watersheds and aims to improve water quality and minimize wastewater and stormwater issues.
Q: Why did you join the SWAN Forum and what do you hope to gain from the smart water community?
In 2018, the EPA released a guidance document, “Smart Data Infrastructure for Wet Weather Control and Decision Support” that featured case studies from many programs saving 100-200 million USD with a digital transformation of their utility. As this report and other similar studies were issued, we began talking about smart technology and how it can be used at MSD to improve operational performance. In 2019, MSD embarked on an initiative with a team of representatives from Engineering, Operations, and IT to create a Wet Weather Optimization Program Charter with a Purpose, Vision, and Goals. This initiative was included in our 2021-2025 Strategic Business and Operating Plan. The major goals are to reduce overflows to the environment thereby improving water quality in the region, reduce the costs of our capital program to meet our regulatory commitments, and to improve the level of services for our customers (reduce basement backups). Recently, we selected a consultant to prepare a Wet Weather Optimization study to execute our program.
We joined SWAN to learn from the collective knowledge sharing of others in the industry. There is so much out there that we do not know, and technology is rapidly changing. SWAN gives us an opportunity to network with utility leaders and technology providers about what tools are out there and what is coming, so we are not just planning for today, but also for the next 5 to 20 years from today.
Q: Can you share what the value of smart water means to you, specifically during a pandemic?
Smart water means using technology to improve utility operations and performance. That is more important now than ever before because a lot of people are trying to minimize their exposure in the environment, so if there is a way we can remotely read a meter or not have to change a sensor that has improved battery performance, it helps.
Q: You attended the SWAN 2020 Conference and led an interactive roundtable discussion. What were your top highlights from the virtual event and how does the theme “Moving Beyond Data to Value Creation” relate to your utility?
The SWAN Conference theme translates into the way we are thinking of taking MSD forward. MSD has over 200 pump stations and a large Overflow Regulation System to protect against flooding. We generate a lot of data, including from our plants and collection system. Taking that data (e.g. from sensors) and being able to control our systems helps to improve its performance, and to improve performance is the value creation related to the Conference theme.
It was exciting to lead a roundtable at the SWAN Conference this year. The best part was the opportunity to speak with global utility leaders, and software and hardware providers to understand what is happening around the world and their vision for the future. As the environment is changing and digital transformations occur at many water and wastewater utilities, it is important to make sure that MSD builds awareness of emerging trends and the industry's evolution.
Q: What is your advice for young professionals interested in the smart water sector?
My number one piece of advice is to join a professional organization that matches your interests, such as SWAN if you’re interested in smart water technology. This will help you grow your network and your knowledge base.
Personally, I got involved in the Water Environment Federation (WEF) early on in my career, and the relationships that I build through our state member association helped further my understanding of the industry and progress my career. Making sure you are connected to a professional network is an important step to improving your knowledge.
Utilis was founded in 2013 and has been providing its satellite-based leak detection product to utilities since 2016. With no equipment or CAPEX spending necessary, the Utilis solution and pricing is attractive to small or large utilities alike. Based on the success with leak detection, Utilis has launched new data products using their patented ability to detect any soil moisture below ground, bringing to market true satellite-based infrastructure intelligence.
Q: In light of the global pandemic, what forms of collaborations are needed to continue advancing smart water solutions?
It comes down to providing solutions that can be delivered without contact and then deployed with limited remote instruction. This is what we inherently do at Utilis, even before the pandemic. We are data providers, whether the data is used by a utility to locate and repair a leak from a pipe, or as a dataset imported into a full asset management system (such InfoAsset Planner, provided by our partners Innovyze). Utilis delivers data derived directly from a hardware sensor which is remotely located (on a satellite). Unlike other solution providers that may only predict future pipe failure, Utilis is sensing the water already underground because of a failure.
Q: Utilis is known for its satellite technology widely used for leak detection. Recently, Utilis released a new moisture assessment product, Hydro-Scan™. How does this technology demonstrate the different possibilities available with satellite technology?
For the past five years, Utilis has successfully proven that soil moisture, related to potable drinking water, can be detected underground using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to locate areas of probable pipe leaks. We currently have three patents related to detecting underground soil moisture using L-band SAR from satellites or planes. This technology is based on the ability to differentiate between water from different sources and allows us to filter out potable drinking water, which allows us to also focus-in on other types of water.
This is what we do with Hydro-Scan™, which looks for soil moisture from multiple sources such as leaks or groundwater under parking lots. This allows property management companies to predict where the pavement will fail prematurely and rectify the situation before an expensive repaving job is necessary. Both the potable and Hydro-Scan™ products fall into the satellite submarket called infrastructure assessment.
Q: SWAN’s Rising Smart Water Professionals (RiSWP) hosted its first event for young professionals from around the world. What is your advice for young professionals interested in jump-starting their water career and what skills will be necessary to achieve this?
Internships are key for gaining new skills and insights to business operations. Utilis is hosting an undergraduate student intern this summer, although the pandemic has us working from home and the intern is located remote. They are creating a database of previous U.S. projects and analyzing factors that contributed to their success.
Beyond being a value to the company, we feel it is our responsibility to give back to the next generation of water professionals by providing mentorship and a well-defined consequential project to a college student. The skills needed are the same as most other fields such as analytical thinking, drive to learn about something new, and the ability to get along with others.
Rezatec applies data science to satellite imagery and geospatial data to deliver sophisticated, cloud-based analytics to customers owning and operating high value, distributed land-based assets. Rezatec data services enable improved margins, enhanced competitive advantage and optimised asset management for its customers. Rezatec customers cover the globe and are leaders in their respective industries in the water, agriculture, infrastructure and forestry sectors.
Q: Rezatec is a geospatial data analytics company that specialises in “Software-as-a-Service.” How does this apply to satellite technology?
The concept of ‘software-as-a-service’ allows companies to benefit from adopting new technologies, such as Geospatial Artificial Intelligence (AI), without the overhead of procuring, implementing, and maintaining software applications. However, analytical data products and interactive tools often need to be refreshed. Offering software in a hosted online environment means that users are only required to log in and act on intelligence. Users are alerted to anomalous activity and therefore can act in a proactive manner to inspect and mitigate issues where necessary. With Rezatec’s technology, new satellite scenes are automatically downloaded, analysed, and presented to users in an online dashboard. The service is seamless and enables users of Geospatial AI tools to benefit from valuable business insights afforded by this new and innovative technology.
Q: We noticed that Rezatec is actively forming partnerships in the industry (such as with Black & Veatch, MeterSYS, and others). What motivates your collaborations?
Rezatec is a specialist in using AI techniques to integrate and interpret multiple data sets comprised of satellite imagery, environmental data and asset data, into business decision support products. We are not, however, a consulting firm so we don’t provide deep sector knowledge and associated services for our customers on how to incorporate analytics into their businesses and the change management involved. Therefore, partnering with companies such as Black & Veatch, which can provide these services, is a critical motivation for collaboration. Such partnerships allow Rezatec to focus on what it does best and provide more added value to our end users.
Q: With ageing infrastructure, how can geospatial technology help utilities repair and optimise their assets?
Geospatial AI technology is an innovative approach to optimise prioritisation and investment in water utility assets. For example, as pipeline networks age, deterioration can occur due to corrosion, materials erosion, and external pressures and incidents. One of the main challenges for water asset managers is how to focus attention on the highest risk assets and to intervene before there is a failure. Traditional methods often rely on less frequent and manual support. For example, ground teams systematically survey pipeline networks and find problems to fix as they go along. Other tools such as acoustic loggers or piezoelectric sensors are placed along the network or around the asset, but this poses a question for managers on where to effectively install them to maximise their potential and identify problem areas?
Geospatial AI can provide the answer and effectively complement existing monitoring activities. Using a combination of satellite data (e.g. RADAR satellite imagery), and frequently updated environmental and asset data inputs with AI techniques can identify the likelihood, consequence, and cost of a failure. The analysis and interpretation of satellite data provides a view of what is happening on the ground without the same overheads and allows water companies to focus investments in terms of CapEx and OpEx on the assets with the highest likelihood of failure. This is a far more proactive approach and is perfect for monitoring asset activity over time, by helping asset managers identify emerging problems – or trends – to prioritise, plan, and optimise investments in their networks and drive large scale productivity.
Q: What skills should young professionals prioritise to jumpstart their career in the water sector?
As a supplier to the water sector, increasingly we see the need for technology to provide fresh insights and drive efficiencies throughout the business. We look for young professionals to have skills across a range of contemporary and pertinent areas such as statistical analysis and data science and an understanding of how to get the most of multiple data sets to generate real business value.
The Hawle Austria Group produces valves and fittings for water distribution all over the world. These products have been manufactured for generations and are used in urban water management from the source right through to the connection in the house. This interview was written in collaboration with Arthur Schneider, Head of R&D (Digitalisation) at Hawle Austria Group.
Q: The “physical layer” of Smart Water Networks is sometimes referred to as the “dumb layer” since it contains no data. Would you say this changing?
The physical layer is the fundamental part on which the water network is built. Fortunately, we can expect digitisation to continue in the water supply industry and the market is doing its best to support its customers and partners. Hawle is offering the possibility of digitising water networks, by means of integrated products, interfaces or software to support our customers for any need. Our digital products are intended to form the foundation for a well-thought-out digitalisation of the water network. Ultimately, it will be a combination of sophisticated hardware, such as heavy-duty valves, smart electronics and software tailored to the water network. We have a responsibility today to build the foundations for tomorrow.
Q: How should municipalities and smaller water boards approach the topic of digitisation in the water network?
The first step towards successful digitisation is to use an administrative tool that brings together all the important data in order to create an overview of the water supply system. In many cases, smaller municipalities or water suppliers do not have access to such a tool. Hawle, along with its subsidiary Hawle Service, provides such a platform which includes all the necessary elements to start digitalisation in the water network. You can draw a comparison to google maps, only that our Hawle.Map is adapted to specifically meet the requirements of water suppliers.
We view ourselves as a partner who supports the water supplier where it is important. This is why Hawle provides all the services and parts that are needed to keep the network operational. For example, specialised technicians helped record the characteristics of each serviced hydrant using measuring instruments developed in-house. The data is immediately displayed on the Hawle.Map to create an overview of all the hydrants ready for operation or a navigation tool to the hydrant with the highest litre capacity in the area. Hawle also offers a well-thought-out system that provides an overview of important network information, which can be easily extended with monitoring systems such as our S.CAP hydrant monitoring system or Hawle.Live monitoring for countless other applications to deliver additional value.
Q: What is your advice for young professionals interested in the smart water sector?
I advise them to always be aware of the latest trends in the water supply industry. A good example is the Internet of Things (IoT), which is no longer an abstract concept in water supply that you might only recognise from books. Hawle started on this some time ago and we are pleased to participate in the marathon to digitalisation. There are already many exciting IoT projects and products in the market that increase the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of our networks. For example, we launched the S.CAP, an integrated battery-powered cover for monitoring fire hydrants and reflects the IoT concept. The new focus will be on software that helps understand ever-increasing data flows and breaks them down into the most important information.
Another piece of advice is to go out and develop together with the customer what is needed to tailor applications. Try Minimum Viable Product (MVP) studies, listen to the customer's reflections on the solutions, and don't be afraid to fail. Even if you do, it will provide you with a basis for further developments.
The LACROIX Group is an international technological equipment supplier whose ambition is to put its technical and industrial excellence at the service of a connected and responsible world. LACROIX Sofrel’s choice to use a smart environment reflects its commitment to harness the finest technologies which benefit both people and the environment. The company can rely on several subsidiaries and a network of 40 certified partners to deliver consultancy and support activities for water utilities worldwide.
Q: We are living through a global pandemic. What innovations are needed in smart water networks to help utilities prepare for an emergency?
The COVID-19 pandemic strongly impacts the daily operations of water utilities which have the responsibility to guarantee the availability and quality of drinking water to consumers. To do so, water utilities have to deal with many challenges.
Utilities will need to evaluate how people’s confinement will impact water production and consumption, as this unique situation now generates a drop of water consumption on the industrial side, but an important increase from households. To do such analysis, utilities can deploy smart devices such as data loggers and IoT sensors to enable critical sites without energy and under low cellular coverage to send periodic data to a SCADA system. Then, water utilities will have relevant data from their plants and distribution network to supervise and analyze the performance of their entire network. Deployment of smart devices is strategic for water loss detection, NRW reduction, and network performance optimization.
This pandemic is also an opportunity for malicious hackers to take control of smart water networks and create an additional level of disruption. Water utilities have to make relevant decisions to protect their smart network and must consider cybersecurity as a mandatory feature for any new smart product or solution that will communicate with their IP network.
Q: The theme of the SWAN 10th Annual Conference this year is, “Moving Beyond Data to Value Creation.” How does this theme apply to LACROIX Sofrel’s work in smart water?
LACROIX Sofrel develops smart devices that enable utilities to supervise and pilot their water network with simplicity and confidence. We are one of the pioneers of the Edge Computing domain which consist of collecting & processing data as closely as possible to the field with the ambition to only transmit the reliable and pertinent data to any 3rd party applications like SCADA, analytics, or the hypervisor system used by water utilities. This approach allows utilities to make good decisions in a short amount of time.
The theme of the SWAN 10th Annual Conference naturally inspires us and is a unique opportunity to connect with many water utilities and partners about new technologies and solutions that can help process and analyze the huge amounts of data collected every day in water networks worldwide.
Q: What advice do you have for young professionals interested in a career in the water industry?
The water industry is in transformation. In addition to managing all the physical infrastructures, water utilities have also to consider the emerging technologies like the new low power networks (LoRa, Sigfox, NB-IoT, LTE-M & 5G), the data analytics applications, and new possibilities offered by artificial intelligence for improved network predictions.
My advice for young professionals is to explore these new technologies which are more or less matured to ensure your main mission: optimizing as much of your network performance as possible to deliver the best quality of service to all of your consumers. This will require you to take a bet on industrial smart solutions.
The Met Office is the national meteorological service for the UK, which provides critical weather services and world-leading climate science that help make better decisions to stay safe and thrive. Since its foundation in 1854, the Met Office has pioneered the science of meteorology and its application. To this day, the Met Office continues to push the boundaries of science and technology, to meet the demands of today and the future.
Q: The Met Office is the UK’s National Meteorological Service. How does the Met Office use weather forecasting to help UK utilities prepare for extreme weather events?
We have dedicated industry experts, including forecasters and scientists, who support sectors across the UK industry in managing the impacts of weather and climate change. This means working directly with businesses, the UK Government and regulatory bodies to help inform policy and regulatory standards, thereby supporting the industry to operate safely and efficiently. In terms of severe weather impacts for the UK water sector, we collaborate with water companies and suppliers to identify their biggest challenges and jointly develop solutions. Our work covers all aspects from weather hazard forecasting for health and safety and operational asset management, to high-resolution rainfall and demand forecasting. For example, a solution we developed to help better manage severe weather is our new ‘Freeze-Thaw’ warning and alerting capability. The model analyses specific combinations of forecast weather elements, that when combined can cause an impactful freeze-thaw event. An early alert of a ‘freezing and thawing’ event gives a water company enough time to prepare an appropriate response and better manage resources.
We are also using the latest Met Office climate science and datasets to help water companies plan for the future climate and extreme weather and the impacts this could have on water resources and infrastructure.
Q: What water and wastewater trends is the Met Office most interested in following in 2020?
As our weather and climate changes, the reliance on accurate weather data for water and wastewater management grows. A trend we are seeing, and a particular area of interest to us, is not just increasing dependence on accurate weather data, but how this data can be most effectively used in operational decision-making alongside other data. For example, with wastewater and high volumes of rainfall, it can be a particularly challenging situation to manage, especially with data from many different sources. Information on sewer conditions, antecedent conditions, area, and customer vulnerability, locations of resources and response teams, etc. all need to come together effectively to make timely management decisions. Making sure the weather data is fully integrated into this process is key, and with geographic information systems playing an increasingly important role, this is a trend we are keen to support.
Q: How is the Met Office working with Smart Technologies in the water sector?
Smart Technologies in the water sector is an exciting area for us. With water management and infrastructure being greatly impacted by weather, a better understanding of how people and networks respond to weather has huge potential benefits. For example, modeling and forecasting leakage or water quality across a catchment. With weather data now being produced at a resolution of 1.5 kilometers over the UK, there is real potential to gain a detailed understanding of vulnerable areas and to forecast high-risk periods. Of course, as time goes on and the more smart data is captured, the stronger those relationships can be and the more powerful tools can be developed.
Q: Tell us something we may not know about the Met Office.
One of the things about the Met Office that never fails to amaze me is the incredible supercomputing power we have - the engine at the heart of what we do. As the world’s fastest operational super-computer it can make 2 million calculations per second for every man, woman and child on the planet. Soon we will store more bits of data than there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Our challenge as the industry team is, with insight from customers, working out what data brings most benefit from the vast quantities of data we produce, and how it can be used to make better business decisions.
Q: What advice do you have for young professionals interested in the water industry?
I would strongly encourage any young professional to consider the water sector, as there are so many varied roles to choose from. My work with water companies is as diverse as it is interesting with a focus on understanding customers’ needs, understanding and supporting new scientific developments and helping deliver solutions that ensure we have a clean and secure water supply for the future. The thing that has impressed me most since I started in the water sector in 2019 is the willingness of companies to come together to tackle the biggest challenges. While water companies have their individual catchments and challenges, it is becoming more recognised that collaboration is critical for solving some of the biggest issues. With it being a largely ‘non-compete’ marketplace, people and organisations are more open and willing to share and work together than many other sectors. There are many challenges to solve, particularly with the effects of our changing climate and weather, but with an increased emphasis on collaboration and innovation, it is certainly an exciting and rewarding sector to be in.
HYDREOS is a French Competitiveness Cluster that is structured to support its members and develop the water industry in the North East of France. Its goal is to gather and to develop a community and innovative solutions for water networks, smart management of infrastructures and biodiversity. It fosters the process of collaborative innovation expertise for sustainable solutions and international development. HYDREOS supports its members in implementing activities favouring sustainable improvements of all kinds that are related to water.
Q: As a long-time SWAN Member, what do you see as the biggest smart water trends to look out for in 2020?
Drinking water and wastewater treatment plants have started integrating digital solutions to optimise their operations. Thus, physical peripherals in industrial environments have become "smarter" with the integration of automation, communications and networks. IT/OT convergence will allow more direct control and more comprehensive monitoring, with easier analysis of these complex systems from anywhere in the world. Digital Twins and process simulation solutions will help minimise the risk of errors and optimise installation and commissioning before a plant or process is even built.
There is a growing trend to work on predictive tools that will enable actions to be taken before any failure occurs and maintenance operations to be optimised. Operational technologies are thus becoming connected, and with this openness there comes problems related to cybersecurity for installations, a problem that has not been addressed until now on facilities that are not remotely accessible.
Q: What are the unique smart water challenges and opportunities that you see for French water utilities?
French companies have massively equipped themselves with digital tools to manage their networks. Today, they are faced with managing the large amount of data generated. Currently, within local authorities, data is still often poorly managed and very few companies have set up governance rules for their data.
With the multiplication of available information, the use of data management technologies (machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc.) is growing and many solutions are now being offered on the market. However, local authorities have difficulties in identifying the real potential of these tools and in choosing the one best suited to their situation.
Q: The theme of the upcoming SWAN Conference is “Moving Beyond Data to Value Creation.” How does HYDREOS foster collaboration to accelerate the water industry?
HYDREOS operates a competitiveness cluster to support the development of the water industry in the North East of France. The goal is to gather and develop a community and innovative solutions for water networks, smart management of infrastructures, and biodiversity. HYDREOS promotes the development of particularly innovative collaborative research and development (R&D) projects and leads a working group about smart water. This group’s purpose is to create crossovers between digital technology, artificial intelligence, data management, augmented reality and the water ecosystems.
The group’s meetings enable the exchange between actors from across fields and from different cultures: companies, research laboratories, communities. They thus encourage the emergence of new ideas and innovations.
Q: What is your advice for young professionals who are trying to jumpstart their careers in the water sector?
Young professionals will have to be creative, open-minded and ready to work in collaboration with research laboratories. The rapid changes in technology and society will require the ability to rapidly evolve in their way of thinking and to innovate. A double competence in water treatment and digital technology (automation, data management, etc.) will be a highly appreciated asset.
One of SWAN's newest members, KETOS, Inc. is a start-up delivering integrated, cloud-based, IoT solutions for actionable water intelligence through hardware, secure connectivity, and a robust software fabric. Founder & CEO Meena Sankaran talks to us about the recent Newark lead crisis, industry trends, and more.
Q: As one of the newest SWAN Members, can you share how KETOS supports its customers with its water intelligence platform?
At KETOS, we believe that empowering operators with mission-critical water data can transform their businesses. Our solution is a unique intersection of smart connected networks, data analytics (predictive intelligence with actionable insights), and water sensing technology (innovative hardware for real-time water monitoring). Users will receive state-of-the-art continuous water quality warnings and predictive analytics of heavy metal toxins, inorganics, and several environmental parameters in a single modular system at lab-precision levels of accuracy and reliability. While the hardware incorporates proprietary patented methods of sensing and automation, the software platform has several innovations to bring the capability of data analytics and the strength of technology to the world of water.
Q: News has recently emerged regarding lead contamination in the Newark water crisis. How can cities use water metrics to prevent similar situations?
Municipalities now can have advanced diagnostics on any lead contamination anomalies before they escalate to liability, provision of bottled water and a city-wide scare on public-health. For example, the KETOS Shield system is one of the first in the industry to provide lab-precision data within EPA-desired sensitivity on an automated basis without the need for manual intervention for 20+ parameters, all within a single system. This solution can be installed strategically across an entire city grid including water treatment plants in order to understand the deterioration of water quality through the distribution cycle. It can also provide operators clear insights of where possible infrastructure issues are occurring such as pipeline corrosion. This allows for for proactive pipe repairs through location-mapped data.
Q: What trends in the smart water industry are you most excited about?
The Internet of Water is here. KETOS has entered the water industry at an inflection point where water operators and businesses are going through a transition and reflection of technological automation, optimization and adoption across several tiers. We have built a dynamic predictive modeler that not only takes into account all publicly available static data but also the real-time millions of data points. This flow of data allows for potential correlation with seasonality, man-made contamination sources and more opportunities into the future.
Hardware is a means to generating data and the unique capability of detecting, collecting, analyzing and presenting heavy metal toxins in real-time is a great start for us. Treatment and storage solutions are great but knowing what’s in our water, in a scalable automated way might be the next step in building a cohesive solution for a smarter, sustainable and safer future.
Q: What advice do you have for young professionals trying to elevate their careers in the water industry?
As a society, we need to increase awareness and optimize overall water availability for future generations. Continuous water quality monitoring now allows for water recycling and enabling water reuse on a larger scale.
KETOS was built in a data-centric world- this allowed an interdisciplinary collaboration of material scientists, physicists, chemists, electromechanical engineers, robotic engineers, data scientists, cloud architects and IoT engineers to enter into the world of water and work on a combined hardware and software solution.
Water is a complex yet quintessential resource, so the need for young professionals to be creative and adaptive of how they apply learning and innovation from other verticals, segments and markets is very important to how we preserve and enhance this resource while uplifting this industry into technological progress.
Syrinix is an award-winning leader in providing intelligent pipeline monitoring solutions for clearer network insights. CEO James Dunning talked to us about utility resilience, "smart" trends, and more.
Q: As a Smart Water pioneer, what recent trends have you seen in the water sector?
“Smart” is no longer the next big thing but increasingly an assumed part of day to day utility operations. Sure there is a way to go and drivers vary, but we are now seeing a growing focus on integrating all of those “smart” data streams, and at much higher resolutions, in ways that may be standard elsewhere but are definitely new to the water sector.
Q: Water loss is a global issue. How has Syrinix evolved to better enable utilities to manage their water systems?
When Syrinix started we would provide hardware, provide access to the online data, and that was about it. Now though we work much more closely with our customers on an-going basis ensuring not just that they get the most out of our solutions but that they do so in the context of their own individual challenges.
Q: With extreme weather events like the “Beast from the East,” how can utilities use predictive analytics to become more resilient in the future?
I was told several moons ago by George Kunkel at Philadelphia Water Department that there is no “silver bullet” - and George was and remains absolutely right!. It is about short and long term measures, about identifying susceptible points on networks, about asset maintenance and planning on an on-going basis. Analytics is absolutely an important part of that, but as George says, not the only one – the tricky bit is combining all those parts effectively.
Q: What advice do you have for rising professionals interested in getting involved in the water industry?
Few sectors face the scale and complexity of the challenges that are emerging in the water sector as climate change, population growth and urbanisation pressures combine. At the same time the people in the sector are, almost literally without exception, welcoming constructive and focused on doing an excellent job. So I would say definitely go for it albeit with the usual warning that the world is a small place and it never ceases to amaze me how pathways cross and recross – so treat everyone with respect, play nice, and smile!
Olea Edge Analytics, one of SWAN's newest U.S. based members, is an innovative startup helping utility customers become more advanced. Executive VP, Andrew Kodis spoke to us about Digital Twins, advice for young professionals, and more.
Q: You recently presented at the first Workshop of the SWAN Digital Twin H2O Workgroup. What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for Digital Twin solutions?
Data acquisition, accuracy and integrity represent the biggest challenges to Digital Twin solutions. Water utilities have many systems and sub-systems that require multiple data streams to effectively create a digital twin, which makes a new approach to asset management that drives revenue continuity, promotes equity for both residential and commercial customers and simplifies the maintenance and management of these critical first level assets.
Q: How does Olea assist utilities along their smart water journey?
Water is an increasingly scarce resource! Utilities are challenged by increasing bulk water costs due to scarcity, urbanisation, and changing weather patterns. Water utilities in the United States lose an estimated $3.9 billion annually due to failed or poorly performing commercial and industrial water meters. There is no correlation between the service age or service volume and the failure rate of water meters.
Large commercial and industrial water meters can represent 40%-60% or more of a utility’s annual revenue. The meters are large, difficult to maintain or replace and can fail at any time regardless of age or cumulative service volume. Current best in class solutions tell water utilities that recorded water usage has changed, but not why it’s changed. In regards to this, Olea’s Meter Health Analytics (MHA) solution monitors large commercial and industrial water meters, providing utilities with insights into meter accuracy and delivers clear actionable recommendations.
Q: One of the central themes of the recent SWAN 2019 Conference was digital transformation through collaborative innovation. How would you say this applies to Olea’s work?
First, we are a startup funded by a combination of high net worth individuals, venture capital, and strategic venture capital. Collaboration with our customers and industry is critical for our success to demonstrate the market demand for our solutions to both our current investors and prospective investors.
We have had great success collaborating with utilities during our earliest days of product development. Olea has been successful collecting and developing data, information and actionable intelligence to deliver revenue and value from our earliest prototypes and applications. Utilities have been very supportive through trial purchases, patience and flexibility. Additionally, utilities have trusted Olea, even at our earliest stages, to implement our solutions with minimal utility resources which also provided the opportunity for Olea to innovate fast.
Opportunities to improve collaboration with utilities include improved data sharing and shortened procurement processes. Data transparency helps Olea and utilities clearly understand and identify opportunities and accurately calculate the potential ROI for a solution. Fast procurement and legislative processes inspire investor confidence, or in the case of a more established company, a higher internal ROI on product development which in turn fosters greater innovation investment into the marketplace.
Q: What advice do you have for rising young professionals interested in pursuing a career in the smart water and wastewater sectors?
If you look at the water industry “ecosystem” from water source, treatment, distribution, customers, wastewater collections, treatment and discharge - they all are looking to leverage new technology, sensors and data to maximum performance/results. Anyone entering the water sector should focus on and build their skills around digitisation, software and emerging new technologies. Given the industry trends of experienced employees reaching retirement age, rapid change and digitisation, there is no better time for a young professional to make a positive and meaningful impact on their job and community.
Town of Cary, one of SWAN's newest U.S. based utility members, is on the front line of Smart City initiatives. Sarah Braman spoke with us about the Town's latest smart water projects, cultural transformations, and advice for young professionals.
Q: Congrats on the Town of Cary being recognised via various awards as a premier place to live. What do you see as the impact of smart water solutions on Cary’s future?
Cary is routinely recognised for the high quality of life we provide our citizens. Our accolades range from best place to live, safest city, most livable city and more. Cary is often on the cutting edge of excellence including through smart water technology, having installed AMI smart meters in 2010. I think the future involves leveraging our data to make better, more data-driven decisions.
Q: You recently presented at the SWAN Digital Twin H2O Workshop in Miami; what has been the Town of Cary’s experience in developing a Digital Twin model?
The Town has some advanced SCADA systems at each of our treatments plants, as well as a SCADA web-portal that allows a remote view of certain components of our system in a user-friendly interface. We’re in the process of configuring additional sensors, like our sewer flow monitoring and soon some acoustic sensors, with a middleware software that will allow for remote access and visualization of this data. At this time, we do not have Digital Twin for our distribution or collection system for operational decisions. We do have hydraulic models used for master-planning purposes.
Q: At the SWAN 2019 Conference, a major theme was human-led resistance to new technologies; how is the Town of Cary addressing cultural and workforce changes?
Great question. The Town has undergone a wave of technological advancements and these were coupled with significant cultural changes inspired by a new Town Manager in 2016. It took time to relay the necessity of transformation as our Town matures and the focus shifts from building to maintaining. Book clubs were an effective technique for establishing a common vocabulary around the topic of adaptive leadership. Having technology platforms, including Box and Salesforce, that encouraged town-wide collaboration was also vital for realising our vision of an collaborative and innovative culture. (Our story with Salesforce does a nice job showing the culture change).
Q: What do you see as the most interesting/innovative new trends in the U.S. water sector?
I think the leak detection technology trend is really fascinating and just proves the importance of addressing non-revenue water in order to remain relevant and sustainable.
Q: What advice do you have for rising young professionals interested in the water field?
I definitely encourage young professionals to work hard, be curious, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and stretch yourself because you never know who it will connect you with and ultimately the people we work with are what makes the biggest difference.
Isoil is a global manufacturer and supplier of electromagnetic and ultrasonic flowmeters. Isoil's Export Manager, Matteo Viccardi, is experienced in strategy consulting and consumer goods. Here he tells us about the main challenges he sees for water utilities and the innovations he is most excited for in the industry.
Q: As an industry young professional, what advice do you have for other smart water young professionals interested in pursuing this field?
Having joined the water industry only a couple of years ago, I can definitely say that the possibility of contributing to the global challenge of water management is both exciting and rewarding. The industry definitely needs motivated young professionals with different skills and backgrounds to integrate new technology and break down challenges in to smaller localised concepts and solutions. The water industry can hardly compete with some other industries in terms of salaries and compensations packages, but it can surely offer the great chance to work on one of the most important, complex and underestimated issues of our times, with objective of leaving a better world to future generations.
Q: What are the main sensor and communication challenges facing water utilities today and how are digital solutions being leveraged to address them?
Water utilities face countless challenges, such as huge and obsolete water networks that are in constant need of renovation and maintenance, requiring significant opex and capex plans. Available resources are frequently not sufficient to keep pace with necessary investments and ensure water networks are well taken care of. Resources are also very much linked to and influenced by political cycles. Furthermore, it is not always easy to choose the correct technology amongst the many available, and even more challenging is to ensure labour force are trained and ready to take full advantage of innovations. As a manufacturer of flow meters, we believe that digital solutions do provide a great help: they increase accessibility, offer a comprehensive approach to data management and help manufacturers in offering tailor made solutions, rather than stand-alone products. As an example, sensors installed in the network combined with software solutions makes remote control over the water network, leak detection and predictive maintenance much easier than it used to be.
Q: This past October, you presented at the SWAN Workshop at WaterIDEAS - Bologna regarding accelerating digital innovation for water utilities. From the discussion raised, what do you think are the best ways to accelerate the water sector?
I’m convinced that each player shall focus on its core competences. Technology manufactures shall keep innovating and acting as a technology filter towards water utilities, importing innovations and technologies from other industries and collaborating with universities and centres of excellence to make sure the exchange of ideas and challenges is continuous. From the discussion raised in Bologna, it was also evident that making digital innovation usable and accessible is key to accelerate its adoption rate. At Isoil Industria, we focus daily on designing, manufacturing and supplying high quality certified instrumentation with the goal of making our meters more accurate, accessible and digitally advanced. Our main role in the water industry value chain is to make sure water utilities can count reliable and accurate data to take informed decisions and manage their networks.
Q: Which new innovations and trends for the water industry are you most excited about in 2019?
Personally I’m very excited to see what changes will the advent of 5G and IoT bring to our industry. We are not there yet, but different players are getting ready to embrace this new platform. Getting back to my previous point of making technology more accessible, just one example of ours is that we have just launched the first battery power converter with integrated alkaline batteries. This was only possible by reducing the power consumption of our micro, to ensure a competitive battery life. Alkaline batteries are available everywhere, much more economical than lithium batteries, easier and cheaper to stock.
Pydro is a Hamburg-based start-up that has developed a smart pressure management system for water pipes using an in-pipe hydro turbine and monitoring system to control pressure levels, recover superfluous energy and monitor water flows. Mulundu Sichone, Founder & CEO of the company as well as a 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30, talked to us about the water-energy nexus, his own experiences in the smart water industry, and the importance of calculated risks.
Q: The Water-Energy Nexus is a hot topic in the smart water field - what challenges and opportunities do you see in this area?
The interconnection between water and energy is undeniable. When we talk about the availability and sustainable management of water, we also talk indirectly about affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. Water has characteristics that make it useful in the process of producing energy and energy is required to treat and distribute water. I first came in contact with this topic when I led a student project in the Fishing for Experience program, a project carried out in cooperation between the Career Center of the Technical University of Hamburg and Raffinerie Heide. As students, we had the opportunity to develop a concept to minimize water consumption in the refinery. For us this project was a practical example of the energy-water nexus, and we learned a lot as we developed a concept that led to a savings potential of 25% in water consumption. Our approach was to examine the infrastructure, get to know the processes and find a solution.
Since then, from my research and conversations with water utilities and industry experts, I have learned that Smart Pressure Management (which is nothing more than energy management) is the most effective solution to minimize water losses. But even this solution has only recently emerged and has been discovered through a closer look at the water treatment and distribution process and the relationship between energy and water. I believe that in many processes there is an untapped potential to save water and energy and the digital transformation we are seeing is opening up a lot of these types of opportunities.
Q: What are the most exciting trends in today's smart water sector?
What energy and water have in common are processes and infrastructure, that's where the savings potential lies and that's where exciting trends such as Industrial IoT, AI and Smart Water Networks come into play. When we talk about Industry 4.0, we should also talk about real-time monitoring and data-driven solutions that improve water systems. It is important to showcase how these solutions allow operators to detect infiltration and inflow, prioritise actions, quickly respond to system failures, and apply predictive modeling.
There are also a number of interesting approaches to interoperability where, for example, mesh networks and blockchain technology can provide the required cyber security. These are all very interesting trends that we at Pydro are following closely and about which we want to learn more to understand what our role is going to be in this ecosystem.
Q: The theme of the upcoming SWAN Conference is "Navigating the Smart Water Journey: From Leadership to Results". How does Pydro apply its long-term vision to every day water challenges?
We apply our long term vision to every day water challenges by taking risks and raising awareness. I first learned about the importance of raising awareness to environmental issues from Al Gore's documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”. The sooner we can explain the problems and causes of water scarcity to each other, the sooner we can start thinking about solutions. Therefore each of us is responsible to inform our peers about subjects which are important for our planet.
When it comes to taking risks, we always hear from people how hard it is to start a hardware company in the water industry. And it really has been tough for us just to get funding for our product development, and it is also not very easy to convince water utilities as a hardware startup with no track record. But only by taking calculated risks have we got the chance to work on our vision, create jobs and find partners.
Q: What differentiates Pydro from other smart pressure management companies?
Pydro was founded in 2016 with the mission of building a smart pressure management solution for water networks by integrating energy recovery technologies. Our approach is to develop energy self-sufficient hybrid technologies by integrating modular and space-saving hydropower plants into the existing design of the measuring and control devices. This enables the systems to generate the required energy directly from the flowing water at the point of use.
As a Start Up, we also know how important it is to embrace a customer-oriented product development. This is why we work very closely with our customers, partners and mentors to validate our turbine designs and ensure that we can offer the best solution for Smart Water Networks.
Q: As an award-winning Young Professional active in the water sector, what advice do you have for those looking to begin their careers in this field?
Every journey starts with the first step. If you want to do something worthwhile, you have to start somewhere. I have learned that it is very important to be willing to take a calculated risk and make the most of what you have instead of waiting for the right opportunities.
The second advice is to be persistent. Through my journey as an entrepreneur, I have learned that if I don`t quit, I will get the education that will empower me to reach my goals.
The third advice is always to ‘fish for experience’. As a young professional you have a lot of new theoretical knowledge, but what is also important is to actively look for ways to put this knowledge into practice as early as possible. That could be looking for internships, jobs as a working student, or starting projects & working on a thesis that can help you gain useful experience in preparation for your career. Many opportunities can also be obtained through networking by going to trade fairs or other events and talking to experts and asking questions. Be open to new ideas and always on the lookout for new things you can learn in the field of your interest alongside your studies.
Australian water utility and new SWAN Member SA Water provides safe and affordable water and wastewater services in South Australia for over 1.6 million people. The utility is a pioneer in the smart water sector, and is quickly expanding the use of its innovative technologies across the region. Dr. Helen Edmonds, Manager of Water Assets at the utility, talked to us about customer engagement, the water-energy nexus, and how to become a well-rounded water professional.
Q. Congratulations on SA Water being named the 2018 Australian Digital Utility of the year. How does SA Water prioritise its digital agenda?
There are various aspects to how we determine what’s important for us in the digital space, but first and foremost, it’s about developing solutions which benefit our customers, to continue to meet their increasing expectations and improve the ways they can interact and do business with us.
Our digital roadmaps are enduring and aim to build capability over time through the way we:
- Directly engage with our customers, e.g. service channels and communication on faults and outages
- Optimise new and emerging technology for our assets, e.g. smart networks
- Improve processes and technology for our staff, to ensure we continue to be safe and increase our efficiency
Another important element is cost efficiency. We have strong governance arrangements in place to ensure our investments are prudent but still allow us to deliver a high quality and valued service.
Q. What have been some unexpected challenges and benefits of your smart water technology rollouts?
We’ve been monitoring and collecting data through our smart water network in the Adelaide CBD since it went live in July 2017. Since this time, we’ve used the technology to prevent 29 main breaks and have increased our knowledge of the local system exponentially.
Following this success, we’re now expanding the use of smart technology to four more locations across South Australia. In total, 35 pressure sensors (including 15 transient loggers), 19 flow meters, 120 acoustic leak detection sensors and two water quality sensors are being progressively fitted across the four locations in coming months.
In addition to a reduced water main break rate, some other benefits we’ve seen through the Adelaide CBD trial to date include improving our understanding of dynamic water pressure behaviours, sources and ‘network calming’ requirements, as well as building our staff’s expertise on smart technology and the general management of water systems.
Our challenges are mostly related to IT capabilities, but we see these more as opportunities to change and adapt. Our smart network is producing a lot of data, so while at first overwhelming, we’ve spent the past 12 or so months working out what it all means and how this data can be used to drive value for the business and our customers.
Q. What are SA Water's main customer engagement strategies?
We create a number of opportunities to have conversations with our customers and community, whether for specific projects or on an ongoing basis.
Our largest engagement initiative at the moment involves working together with customers to develop a plan on how we’ll operate and deliver services between 2020 and 2024. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and we want to make sure we understand the services and outcomes they want us to prioritise. Outside of this set period, we work with Customer Advisory Groups – which were established in 2012 – to increase interaction with representative customer groups. They provide important feedback and help to ensure business and residential customer opinions are represented in our decision-making process.
Additionally, we have set our direction through to 2020 to be a leader in reconciliation for our customers, our partners, our people, and the communities in which we operate. With a Reconciliation Action Plan in place and actions actively underway, we are working in partnership with a number of Aboriginal communities across South Australia from the west coast through to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.
Our ongoing customer research program involves contacting customers through phone and online surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews to find out how the community perceives SA Water, and their opinions of how we are performing as an organisation. This helps to measure the impact of changes we make to the way we work. We also offer several free community and school-based programs throughout the year which provide information on topics such as water treatment and desalination in an easy to understand way.
Q. SA Water has an ambitious goal of achieving zero net electricity costs by 2020. Why is this important to the company and are you on track to reach this goal?
SA Water serves 1.6 million people across South Australia and we’re one of the largest electricity users in the state. Our energy-intensive pumping and treatment operations consumed 220 gigawatt hours in 2016/17, at a cost of around $55 million. We are looking to reduce our demand on the grid and increase our renewable energy generation and storage capacity, in an ambitious plan to achieve zero net electricity costs by 2020. We’ve already been reducing our electricity costs by more than $3 million a year since 2013, so we know that with a concerted push, our goal is ambitious, but within reach.
Every step we make towards this goal will deliver savings for our business, and therefore our customers. Reducing operational expenses like electricity costs will help keep our customers’ water and sewerage charges as low and stable as possible. Our sustained focus on renewable energy generation is also helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and contribute to greenhouse gas reduction targets. Since announcing our 2020 target in December 2017, we have begun several initiatives to help reach this goal. A trial solar photo-voltaic (PV) and battery storage system at our Crystal Brook Workshop is now operating – providing energy for the site and reducing our draw from the grid by around 30 per cent.
We’ve also recently completed the installation of up to five megawatts of solar photo-voltaic panels at some of our large metropolitan sites, including a 1.5 megawatt system at the Hope Valley precinct, where the generation will facilitate a trial of next-generation 120 kilowatt hour mechanical flywheel storage system. In addition, we’re currently working through a Request for Solution process with four participating shortlisted vendors, for contracts to deploy more than 500,000 rooftop and ground-based solar arrays at 93 SA Water sites. Contracts are expected to be awarded in the next couple of months.
Q. What motivated SA Water to join SWAN and get involved in the SWAN Asia-Pacific (APAC) Alliance?
We see benefit in having access to an organised forum to share learnings with other water utilities in the region who have trialled, implemented or are considering smart network technologies and analytics. There will be increasing value in the SWAN Asia Pacific Alliance if it grows to include the wider Asia Pacific region and involve more of the large utilities in Australia that have been undertaking trials of these technologies.
Q. What advice do you have for rising professionals in the water sector?
Take every opportunity you can to gain experience in as many areas as possible. It will make you a more rounded professional and set you up with the skills to be able to look at challenges and opportunities from multiple perspectives. In the same vein, don’t set a career path too early. See where life takes you and take the time to find out what you love to do so you can thrive in our professional life.
I also encourage you to say “yes” more often. Everything you do and experience – positive or negative – is an opportunity to learn and expand your horizons. Lastly, don’t forget about who you’re doing all of this for – your customers, your community. Put them at front of mind and think about how you can work with them to achieve a better life.
Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV) is one of SWAN's newest members. A global consultancy, Royal HaskoningDHV is an innovative leader in the smart water space. Through its smart water products, Royal HaskoningDHV takes a real-time holistic approach to water management, by applying Big Data analytics, machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to fully optimise, integrate and automate the entire man-made water cycle. See the full interview below.
Q. Royal HaskoningDHV is one of the newest members of SWAN - can you share how you are engaged in the smart water industry?
With over 15 years of work analysing, predicting and controlling water and wastewater through our internal platforms, Royal HaskoningDHV has been engaged in smart water solutions long before it became a buzzword. We focus on prediction engines for optimal control of any part of the water cycle and are constantly introducing models dedicated to detecting and localising leaks or bursts, analysing and controlling wastewater transport, analysing and optimising wastewater treatment and holistic control of bioresource processing.
Q. As a large engineering consultancy, how do you adapt in such a quickly accelerating field?
It’s an ongoing challenge - we stay on top of the field by constantly expanding our knowledge network and working with relevant partners to add on to our existing services. This is done partly through our partnerships and strategic acquisitions such as that of the data science company Ynformed (specialising in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data algorithms) and through our investment as a minority shareholder in data intelligence lab HAL24K.
Most importantly, we adapt to a fast-changing world by close cooperation and dialogue with our clients. Their feedback helps us both better understand their challenges and needs as well as the market. Having an existing large user base amongst water utilities helps us build the close partnerships which are required to move quickly and ensure we offer a truly innovative and useful solution.
We also believe in fostering internal cross-field cooperation and innovation from within with company, as this allows us to bring new thinking and innovations from diverse markets and industries. Since we operate across several sectors (incl. industry and buildings, transport and planning, maritime and aviation), this really helps us keep on top of interesting innovations and developments which could be adapted to the water sector too. We have also formed active academic partnerships with universities, such as with TU Delft in the Netherlands.
Q. What do you think is the main challenge facing the water and wastewater industries today that data-driven solutions can address?
Data driven solutions can help across the entire water & wastewater industries; we don’t think machine learning and AI should be pigeon-holed to specific themes. In our view, it is important to allow digital analytics, control and optimisation to help provide input and novel solutions wherever they can provide benefit.
Q. As a global organisation, how different are the water sectors you work in and how do you share best regional practices?
Our global focus is on Smart Water Solutions and Flood Resilience in Urban Areas and offer other services based on local demand. There is certainly a demand for these services at a local level and at the same time we definitely see different priorities in different parts of the world. These may be triggered by a variety of macro factors. For example, South Korea has a very mountainous topography and a high density population so space is at a premium. They are now building wastewater systems underground and considering our Nereda Wastewater system which has a small footprint. However, all parts of the water sector share similar goals of ensuring efficient management of a scarce resource and ensuring all wastewater is treated to the best possible standard.
We share best practices by ensuring good internal communications using a wide variety of virtual communication tools to ensure we reach everyone in our global team from Europe to Africa to Asia and the Americas. We rely heavily on internal social platforms as well as traditional communication tools such as (digital) newsletters, virtual meetings and email. This helps us generate dialogue between professionals located all over the world and provide everybody with the opportunity to cooperate easily, sharing best practises and knowledge across several fields of business. We also have specialised global teams that work with local teams to promote and encourage take up of smart water projects.
Q: Can you share some advice for rising professionals entering the industry?
The water industry is an interesting and innovative place to work – it can, however, take a while to understand the intricacies of the sector. My advice would be to take time to listen, learn and understand as much as possible and even then never really expect to know everything! There are great industry bodies, such as SWAN, where people take time to share experience and understanding. These are great platforms to learn more about the industry and build a good network of friends, colleagues and suppliers who can help meet future challenges. I would always advise rising professionals to keep an open mind and be open to new ideas and innovation; only with change and innovation can we meet the challenges of the future and enhance society together.