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Unlocking value for smart water utilities

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By Shaily Trivedi

Globally, 844 million people lack access to clean water which is 1 in every 10 people on the planet. One of the biggest problem faced by water utilities is that of non-revenue water (NRW) owing to an excessive loss of ~16%. The global volume of NRW has been estimated to be 346 million cubic meters per day or 126 billion cubic meters per year, amounting to USD 39 billion loss every year.

To combat these challenges, global utilities are leveraging the proliferation of cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) throughout water value chain – from water reservoir to water meters, monitoring the most critical parameters like chemical properties, pressure and flow rate of water on a real-time basis.

Smart water management solution powered by IoT and AI/ML monitors all critical assets like pumps, pipes, valves, tanks and reservoirs for online condition monitoring, predicting potential failure and balanced useful life. For instance, An IoT enabled water pump will be fitted with several sensors to measure KPIs like flow rate, pressure, vibration, temperature and voltage for online condition assessment, thereby building resilience in the water system.

Similarly, online condition assessment of water pipes through acoustic sensors, leak detection sensors etc. coupled with SCADA inputs help identity the faulty water leakage section. Furthermore, geospatial mapping technologies pinpoints the fault location enabling agile operations by the maintenance crew augmented by connected tools, spares and van; harnessing the true potential of a connected world.

In a smart water utility, last mile fleet is equipped with real-time assistance through augmented/ virtual reality ensuring safe and reliable operations.

Drones, sonar and other digital inspection technologies across the water value chain from water chemical diagnostics at water sources, to sedimentation management at reservoirs or dredging at harbour basins are managed through image analytics and AI/ML.

Structural health monitoring of water reservoirs is being managed through big data analytics leveraging IIoT, AI/ML, building information management (BIM), geospatial, spectrograms, accelerographs, seismographs etc. for static and dynamic behavior understanding and residual life assessment of reservoirs.

Advanced analytics provide meaningful insights on consumer consumption patterns to augment demand side management initiatives for industrial, commercial and residential consumers. These insights form foundation for data driven innovative tariff models, paving the way for new access and high trust relationship between consumers and water utilities.

(The author is Global Industry lead – Utilities sector, L&T-NxT)

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