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How Has Smart Water Management Impacted Water Treatment?

The water treatment process involves numerous steps. They include using screening and filtration methods to remove large and small particles, treating the water with various disinfecting chemicals, and more. Progress in smart water management has improved the steps taken to get liquid ready for consumption.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits people working in wastewater treatment can experience by investigating and implementing intelligent technologies. These approaches are not yet widespread within the industry, but they’ll become increasingly popular as more leaders test and implement them at their facilities.

Improving Efficiency While Reducing Infrastructure Outages 

Wastewater treatment professionals use their experience to figure out the best ways to keep plants running smoothly and achieve the desired outcomes. However, even the most knowledgeable people don’t pick up on everything. Smart water management tools can help fill the gaps.

They typically collect data and analyze it, then flag plant employees about any instances of the information falling outside of set parameters. The data usually comes through in near real-time, letting people act quickly and decisively to avoid unwanted outcomes or to optimize processes.

Northumbrian Water, which has customer bases in England and Wales, began testing a smart wastewater pumping system in 2020. Decision-makers at the company hoped the technology upgrade would help the organization operate more efficiently and minimize the likelihood of breakdowns. The chosen technology has an ultra-high-efficiency motor and impeller that works independently within a larger system. It senses the environmental conditions and automatically makes the required adjustments. Plus, the pumping system has an active blockage detection system that works by running the impeller back and forth to clear the obstruction.

This approach reduces technician calls and system outages because the technology makes up to 25 attempts to remove a blockage before alerting people about it. Water plant employees also get detailed data about things such as the number of hours the pumping system operated, the number of anti-clogging cycles, and the electricity consumed. People can also monitor operations remotely and make changes to the settings without visiting the plant.

Getting Better Visibility for Smart Water Management with Digital Twins 

Water treatment systems need constant oversight to keep working properly. Also, the specifics for efficient operation vary depending on the types of infrastructure the plant has. For example, a closed-loop system cannot lose a water volume of more than 10% per year and still keep functioning. Any water losses require adding more liquid and chemicals to rebalance the system.

Smart water management allows people to get warnings of abnormal conditions sooner. Then, they can act faster to steer clear of costly complications. Some plants have invested in digital twins to increase their overall operational visibility. Digital twins are highly realistic and accurate digitized versions of real-life assets. They usually connect to internet of things (IoT) smart sensors to get data from the physical equipment represented by the digital twins.

Digital twins are significant factors in a massive water treatment project associated with San Diego, California. The initiative, known as Pure Water San Diego, will let the city recycle and treat 30 million gallons of liquid, resulting in high-quality purified water. One of the goals is to reduce San Diego’s dependence on imported water.

The project’s first phase involves five water treatment facilities and 11 different projects under the Pure Water San Diego umbrella. Decision-makers used digital twins to coordinate how various pieces of equipment will work together with integrated controls. One of the main benefits digital twins provide is the ability to test different options before implementing them in real life. Smart water management optimized with digital twins allows seeing how the system will operate under various conditions, minimizing any surprises.

For example, the digital twin can simulate 24 hours of performance in approximately 20 minutes of model time. It also collects water quality data, helping plant managers see how different operating conditions affect those statistics. The ability to preview outcomes before they happen increases the chances this new initiative will operate without major incidents.

Reducing Human Labor Needs with Robots 

Many industries struggle to find enough workers for open positions. Robots have emerged as viable solutions to this issue. They excel at repetitive tasks and can work for long hours at a time. An ageing workforce is the main factor driving this issue in the wastewater treatment sector. As people leave the workforce because of retirement, it’ll take time and resources to fill those positions again. That’s especially true due to the knowledge transfer that must happen from experienced personnel to people just entering the workforce.

There’s no single or fast way to address this problem. However, some wastewater treatment facilities use robots in their smart water management strategies. Those machines can handle some of the jobs humans normally do. The Terminal Island Water Reclamation Plant, located in Los Angeles, California, is one facility that uses robots in the wastewater treatment process, deploying them in various applications. Some sit on top of sewage containers to collect regular samples, while others adjust chemical mixtures or tweak boiler pressure levels. Elsewhere, companies have developed water treatment robots that perform automated cleaning and purification, or crawl through pipes to prevent clogs.

Data collection is a major part of effective smart water management. Robots can gather the necessary information in quick, unobtrusive ways. One company, Biobot Analytics, collects data that can help city planners understand where to allocate funding. It can detect things like viruses, chemical exposures, and evidence of drug usage within the wastewater. The associated insights help people get confirmation of potential issues such as epidemics or increases in illicit drug consumption.

Smart Water Management is the Future 

Many wastewater treatment leaders realize that they can’t stick with outdated methods and continue to succeed in their industries. The examples here give compelling evidence of why they should strongly consider implementing innovative water management technologies into their workflows. The associated efforts might not pay off immediately, but they’re likely to help organizations be more profitable in the long-term.

Customers will benefit, too, because there will be fewer instances of plant disruptions, accidents, or mistakes that could negatively impact access to water. Leaders who are considering utilizing smart technologies should think about contacting service providers who can guide them through the process and answer any questions that arise. Organizations won’t adjust to new technologies overnight. However, when employees have the support they need for smooth transitions, they’re more likely to embrace what’s new rather than resist it.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating advances in science and technology.

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