Colombia is a water-rich country with a sound policy and strong public leadership. One of its main objectives is to ensure reliable access to water resources for the entire population, yet this can only be achieved by tackling new challenges such as climate change, pollution and water losses in the distribution network.
Digital transformation of the water cycle is essential to ensure every last drop of this resource is controlled carefully. The use of digital technology provides centralized, real-time monitoring from the point the water is collected, purified and distributed, to how and when it is consumed by millions of users. This fact was highlighted by Idrica at the recent Andesco 2021 congress, held in Colombia.
According to Álvaro Gentile, Idrica's Country Manager in Colombia, there are three areas in which these technological solutions can be used: infrastructure (such as distribution pipelines and treatment plants), in the financial-customer area, and in work orders. Today, the difficulty lies in the fact that there are many different technologies being used across the water cycle. This generates the need for an integrated, cross-cutting solution, based on cutting-edge technologies such as Machine Learning, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and mathematical algorithms.
Digital transformation of the water cycle is essential to ensure every last drop of this resource is controlled carefully
Gentile stated that, “it enables us to monitor everything from a single operations center, capturing information from different sources and using it holistically". Gentile also pointed out that today many "operators have different brands of smart meters and each one requires its own reading protocol. However, today we can democratize data, access all the information and standardize it quickly and accurately in order to make better decisions".
High percentages of non-revenue water losses in Colombia
There are several important use cases in this digital transformation process. One example given by Gentile was the need to control non-revenue water. In Colombia, in some operations the losses from non-revenue water are very high. This is due to unbilled metered consumption, unbilled unmetered consumption, unauthorized consumption and meter inaccuracies. It also includes leaks in transport and distribution networks and service connections, and leaks and overflows in reservoirs. Implementing a digital, centralized, integrated system throughout the water cycle would avoid all of these inefficiencies. "There are examples of utilities in which savings after the implementation of these technologies account for 20% reductions in maintenance costs, 15% in energy costs, 70% in implementation costs, 35% in hydraulic performance improvements and a 60% drop in the number of complaints due to billing errors. We have also achieved an 18% improvement in water losses, a reduction in CO2 emissions, water savings in distribution networks and an increase in fraud detection," said the Idrica expert.
In the water network infrastructure, digital transformation can enable everything from remote control and alarm notifications to the optimization of energy costs through algorithms. In terms of the work of operators in the field, Gentile said that, in emergency situations, "we have to find out how to protect people, through alarms, through the automatic generation of work orders, and smart anticipation and detection of outages."
Water utilities in Colombia need to be efficient and self-sustainable
How can we generate efficient processes that make an impact, and become self-sustainable over time? According to Gentile, "in Colombia, utilities have to move towards self-sustainability".
The importance of digitally transforming business processes should be part of utilities' strategic plans
After years of sharing its technology in more than 400 cities internationally, through its GoAigua integrated water cycle platform, "we have achieved important milestones that have had a positive impact on the profit and loss statements of water utilities," says Álvaro Gentile.
"The importance of digitally transforming business processes should be part of utilities' strategic plans: modernizing systems through technology means making significant savings by becoming more efficient. This requires planning investments in technological solutions that are already available on the market," concludes the expert.
Idrica in Colombia
Idrica, the multinational that is digitally transforming the water industry, took part in the 23rd Andesco Congress, Colombia's largest specialist event for utilities and communications companies.
The company recently opened its own branch office in Barranquilla.