Digital Twins: The Future of Water Utility Asset Management?

The water utility industry faces several challenges, some of which are:  

  • Reduction of water supply  
  • Population increase  
  • Increase in pollutants  

The use of effective management techniques is crucial for the efficient use, protection, and distribution of water. Business and efficiency indicators play a major role in maintaining a balanced water consumption process that relies on the use of digital technologies to optimize operations. As with other representatives of the utility industry, some of these indicators are:  

  • Customer satisfaction  
  • Operational optimization  
  • Environmental sustainability  
  • Infrastructure stability  

The digital renaissance provides new opportunities for greater resource efficiency and better customer service for utility enterprises. They’re aiming to become more customer-oriented. Managers use technology to achieve a range of goals, from analyzing consumption patterns to managing water distribution. Environmental sustainability and infrastructure security remain the biggest challenges and goals for the business to meet.

Main transformational trends in the Water Utility Industry

Customer satisfaction has always been important, but today companies are now playing by new rules. As organizations transform digitally, IT departments have evolved from simply servicing the company to becoming a strategic component in shaping future growth and success. The main digital trends are:  

  • Opportunities for customer-oriented cooperation and self-service for consumers  
  • Mobility. Quickly get accurate information from the right people  
  • In-depth analysis, key indicators, and strategic decision boards  
  • Cloud computing is an effective approximation of real-time information to decision making  
  • Service innovation, greater efficiency, and more rational real-time implementation 

By using the vast amount of data already collected to influence business decisions, utilities can lead to improved service quality and personalization.   

Let’s look at how two of the most popular technology solutions are transforming the water industry into a smarter and more interconnected environment.  

IoT water management solutions  

The Internet of Things offers new solutions to improve water management and its most efficient use. Water projects can be particularly complex, as many cities rely on aging infrastructure, and the IoT offers opportunities for municipalities to reduce operating costs around construction, maintenance, and more.  

Using systems such as SCADA, the vast majority of the supply network is simulated by the Twins, and utilities rely almost exclusively on the customer to act as their sensor – when there is an error, the customer calls the phone.  

The potential of the sensors  

The IoT sensors allow the program to receive and provide more information from the entire network, thus improving the customer experience as well as reducing operating and maintenance costs.  

Here are some ways in which IoT can improve water management:  

  1. Water leak detection  
  2. More efficient system water management  
  3. Water quality and safety monitoring  
  4. Quality control of water reserves  
  5. Transparency of consumption  
  6. Prescribing infrastructure maintenance  

How can water and sewage benefit the Digital Twins?  

Digital Twins must not be created just to own them. They need to be a solution to a problem. There are different types of problems that water supply and wastewater can deal with by applying digital twins in their project work. For example, you can simply get visibility into the various data silos you have, and then be able to have information on hand to help you make better decisions.  

Example of one of the applications of Digital Twins in water utilities 

The company team can create a Digital Twin of the entire hydrological cycle.  

The water cycle (hydrological cycle) describes the exchange of water between the atmosphere and the various parts of the hydrosphere.  

It is repeated periodically and is described by the following processes:  

  1. Evaporation from oceans, other bodies of water and plants in the air  
  2. The concentration of water vapor and its cooling in the clouds, followed by their pouring on the ground in the form of rain  
  3. Drainage from rivers and other water basins in the oceans  

The main factors involved in the water cycle are:  

  • Precipitation  
  • Overcoming rainfall from plant leaves  
  • Melting snow  
  • Infiltration  
  • Evaporation  
  • Sublimation  
  • Condensation  
  • Transpiration  
  • Percolation 

With the Digital Twin, engineers can:  

Perform meteorological forecasting of the above factors, through which to implement meteorological models  

Analyze the runoff and collection of rainwater. This analysis allows creating a model for the distribution of drinking water and wastewater collected during treatment  

Teams can use the final calculations and information obtained* to create hydraulic and digital models to predict what will happen soon. Evaluation is done using key performance indicators.  

* SCADA data exchanged between the Twins and the system is received by sensors.  

Some of the benefits of this application of technology are:  

  • System reliability  
  • Ensure fewer interruptions  
  • Increase efficiency in terms of operations  

With Twins, you can control the whole system and get an idea of how it works. If you make changes, you can see what will happen and how the system will work differently.  

Transforming the water utility through the digital progression  

With the adoption of technology, water suppliers are finding faster and more efficient ways to provide higher quality services to customers. Utilities around the world are gradually removing old legacy systems for more innovative ERP systems.  

With these changes, the water supply can more effectively control the use and protection of water, while receiving improved compliance with regulatory requirements. Finally, there is increased awareness of customer inquiries, complaints, behavior, and preferences, helping water services to provide more efficient services and create new incentives and pricing plans.

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