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Creating the future for smart, optimised networks

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The scope of Smart Water has expanded dramatically over the last few years, encompassing water quality in distribution, source water, sewer networks and wastewater. Increased awareness and customer understanding of what water should look, taste and smell like has enabled utilities to branch out and adopt new, innovative technologies to safeguard water quality and the environment.

The water quality monitoring portfolio of Badger Meter now encompasses ATi and s::can - global leaders in the design, development, and manufacture of electrochemical and optical water quality monitoring solutions that enable inline, online, low-powered and reagent-free monitoring in locations that previously were not possible. These solutions are changing the way water utilities collect, communicate, store and leverage information to optimise operations. As Director of Smart Water Solutions and an enthusiastic advocate of smart water networks and supply chain collaboration, Garry Tabor discusses the industry’s need for trusted water quality expertise and smart solutions that span every part of the water cycle from Source to Tap, safeguarding water quality and creating a future of intelligent, optimised, smarter water.

To what extent has customer awareness of water and wastewater issues contributed to the way utilities manage water systems?

Historically, consumers have taken tap water quality for granted and not given much thought to where their water comes from or what happens once the toilet is flushed; however, high-profile incidents have changed this by shining a spotlight onto the topic of water quality, creating an increased demand for quality and transparency. This, along with technological innovation, has allowed water utilities to re-examine outdated practices to ensure the service they provide corresponds with the expectations and demands of a now more knowledgeable public, accelerating the journey towards smarter water. 

Gone are the days of reactive management. In today’s modern world of digital technology, utilities have become keen advocates of proactive, smarter water treatment. They utilise well established, field-proven, low-powered, digital water quality sensors, deployed throughout the entire water network, sewers and rivers, creating a neural network that delivers live data directly to the water company’s platform. This enables them to see the effects of events as they happen, resulting in proactive and timely action being taken, reducing complaints and increasing public confidence.

How can smart water technology help monitor water resources and optimise services?

This has prompted a move towards creating neural networks, utilising field-proven, low-powered, digital water quality sensors

The water industry is actively working to not only meet regulatory compliance, but also build resilience, conserve water, reduce risk to human health and protect the environment by adopting intelligent, optimised, smart water networks. Regulation is continuing to drive change, challenging the water industry to continue advancing the use of new technologies. Safeguarding water quality and optimising services requires a ‘smart’ approach, one driven by data, new technology, collaboration and management of infrastructure. The application of intelligent solutions and data analytics will produce actionable insights to enable the water industry to become truly smart.

However, to achieve this, multi-layered, strategic alliances, focused on meaningful solutions for the industry will be vital. Transparent collaboration, with shared values to improve the industry, will become the norm. In short, strategic partnerships utilizing innovative solutions like ATi’s MetriNet and s::can’s Pipe::scan, deployed in distribution networks, will aid in fulfilling the vision of smart water quality monitoring.

What type of applications should the industry now be prioritising for monitoring water quality?

An important part of a water utility’s focus centres around environmental and wastewater monitoring. As an industry, we have been entrusted with the responsibility of supplying vital water and wastewater services to communities, safeguarding water at all points on its journey from source to tap. With increased interest from government regulators, environmentalists and communities, additional focus is being placed on sewer and river monitoring, due to concerns about industrial and domestic contamination. 

SeptiNet is optimising sewer networks, providing odour, corrosion and septicity management to preserve assets and build resilience

As part of this, advances in digital technologies are now enabling better management of wastewater and sewer networks, detecting and preventing septicity. Septic sewage delivered into an activated sludge plant creates far-reaching consequences across the whole water distribution system and the environment. As such, managing and controlling septicity is now one of the most critical challenges in wastewater treatment, but monitoring rivers is equally as important as part of this cycle. Installing a dense network of smart water quality measurement stations within waterways aids the early detection of harmful substances, whilst helping to identify the level of nitrates, organics and turbidity to better understand how to treat and safeguard river water.

Comprehensive water profiling that includes prosaic parameters and organics will fully addresses the cause, effect and mitigation

How can this innovative sewer management technology help monitor septicity and address combined sewer overflows?

Managing and controlling septicity is increasingly complex and one of the most critical challenges in wastewater treatment, with high levels proving costly due to toxicity, corrosion and odour. Innovative, smart solutions such as ATi’s SeptiNet are optimising sewer networks, providing odour, corrosion and septicity management, reducing overflow and pollution to rivers, creating resilient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly wastewater systems that prolong the life of assets and reduce pollution for a better, greener world. This innovative solution combines class-leading ORP measurement and H2S gas sensors to monitor, manage and control septicity. The unique nature of this combined data delivers early indications of septicity, enabling access to data for both online and offline analysis and modelling and providing operators with an early warning, allowing for pre-emptive decision-making to avoid events.

River quality in England and Wales has been in the public eye following claims of water companies discharging untreated sewage. How can digital monitoring and water profiling help?

By applying trusted, unified technologies, utilities will gain insight on how to prescribe a truly smart solution

Rivers are the very source of our drinking water and as such, the need for water profiling to better understand and manage river water quality is more vital than ever. Field-proven, smart river monitoring technology is already delivering data to various bodies to help meet the needs of water utilities, the public and the environment. This includes a comprehensive water profile that goes beyond parameters such as temperature, pH, conductivity and turbidity, extending also to organics. Without this, neither water companies nor environmentalists can fully address the issue of cause, effect and mitigation. This provides the opportunity to take water quality monitoring beyond traditional siloed boundaries and unite IoT technologies that deliver the Smart Water promise. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t simply ‘fit and forget’. Even with low maintenance reagent free, online sensors, keeping these systems clean and calibrated must be integrated as part of the whole life cost to ensure optimum performance. Our experience and expertise offer customers class-leading solutions that can be leveraged in installation and maintenance programmes, for confidence and peace of mind.

When implementing digital strategies, how important is collaboration in breaking down silos for integrated processes and solutions?

There is not one organisation that has a complete solution for every client’s needs. The deployment of a truly successful smart water solution requires a holistic view of the business and an open-minded approach to the term collaboration. Consultants play a vital role in providing much-needed, long-term strategic, economic & financial planning, whilst also anticipating and preparing for changes in the operational environment. Universal technology collaboration is easy to conceptualise but often more difficult to achieve effectively. 

Technology providers can often have conflicting objectives, but consultants ensure that partners work together in the pursuit of a viable outcome, establishing a flight path to achieve a unified solution that delivers the operational objective to improve compliance. By harnessing the collective skills and ingenuity of each stakeholder, water consultants forge delivery models that provide end-to-end service and support. If the industry works together to apply trusted technologies in a unified way, utilities will gain insight into how to prescribe a solution to the challenges they face.

What do you expect to see in terms of adoption of smart water technologies in the next five years?

Embracing innovation and Smart Water is changing the water industry so we can address today’s challenges and invest in the future

Transparent collaboration, with shared values to continuously improve, is what will help us to achieve the goal of true Smart Water. The onset of the digital revolution is bringing the possibility of comprehensive Smart Water networks ever closer. It is essential that, as an industry, we innovate and grasp this opportunity with both hands; this will lead to greater efficiency, improved network performance and enhanced customer service.

I strongly believe that Smart Water is the bedrock of a new age for the water sector and this is perhaps the most exciting time of my career. The challenge now is to keep evolving and work smarter, developing new, innovative, customer-focused technologies, with inter-disciplinary ways of working, tailored to the applications they are used in. Digital innovation will be the key, enabling organisations to modernise operational processes and deliver enhanced customer service. Smart Water is changing the water industry as we know it and embracing innovation and digital transformation is not only enabling us to address today’s unprecedented challenges, but also invest in the future.