During the current crisis, caused by COVID-19, it is essential to guarantee the continuity and quality of the drinking water supply. In this interview, Juan José Pérez Palomar, Director of Drinking water at Global Omnium, explains how the water utility in Valencia (Spain) is successfully managing the service thanks to its people and GoAigua’s technology.
Q: How is drinking water service being managed during the COVID-19 crisis?
A: There are two important factors in Global Omnium's response to this crisis: technology and people. Regarding the first one, we are monitoring in real time the drinking water supply system for Valencia city and its metropolitan area from a single control center. From there we are aware of the state of the system and we can operate on it.
On the other hand, the professionalism and service vocation of our staff is key, as well as adopting contingency plans to minimize the exposure to the virus of operators and customers. Part of the staff is working from home, and the teams were reorganized to reduce contact between workers.
Q: What is GoAigua's Digital Twin and what role does it play in management?
A: We know what is happening in the water treatment plants, in the more than 200 kilometers of large diameter transport pipes and in the more than 1100 kilometers of the city's network. This is possible thanks to GoAigua's Digital Twin, a unique tool in the world that, supported by artificial intelligence, allows us to act in real time on water distribution, learn about past episodes and plan for the future. In short, it allows us to effectively manage this essential resource, water, thanks to the immediate detection, analysis and solution of any anomaly.
For instance, thanks to this technology our operators have been able to observe pressure oscillations at eight o'clock in the evening, when citizens come out to the balconies to clap in recognition of the health personnel.
Q: What other technological solutions are being important?
A: Valencia was a pioneer in smart metering, that is, in reading an important part of its meters from the control center. Today it is still the largest city in Europe that has this technology, and it is especially relevant in the current context. At a time when people must stay at home, GoAigua technology detects leaks in second homes and notifies citizens.
Likewise, GoAigua's technological solutions detect possible leaks in the network, so we can immediately mobilize the search team to locate and repair them. In this way we achieve very significant water savings. Through smart metering we have also detected a change in the consumption pattern, where every day consumption is typical of a regular Sunday.
Q: How does GoAigua help minimize the exposure to the virus?
A: We have a computer application that allows operators to receive work orders directly on their phones or tablets, without having to go to the office or work centers. As a result, we manage to minimize the risk of contagion. In fact, this has allowed us to have one of the lowest incidence rates among companies in the sector.
Q: When this situation ends, what changes do you think will remain in management?
The crisis caused by COVID-19 has put in value the decisions we made years ago, as technology has played a fundamental role in our response to this crisis. Ten years ago we started to sensorize plants and networks, to know in real time what was happening to our processes, equipment and pipes, and thus be able to act quickly in the face of possible problems. In addition, in the city of Valencia we have been receiving more than 10,000,000 data/day for the last 5 years, which, when properly processed, help us to make decisions. In other words, thanks to GoAigua technology we have been pioneers in digital transformation and Big Data.
On the other hand, GoAigua's Digital Twin has been simulating the behavior of the network in real time for more than 5 years and allows planning its operation. In relation to smart metering, of which we are a worldwide reference, management during COVID-19 would have been very different without the information it provides or the advantages of not going to customers' homes. In short, the way to go is still digital transformation, with actions such as:
- Completing the sensorization of the equipment, particularly those that give us information about the quality of drinking water in real time.
- Keep sensorizing the networks and use mathematical models to locate leaks with great accuracy and immediacy, without moving personnel around the streets.
- Promoting the digitalization of sewage networks.
- Building early warning systems to detect the appearance of pandemics such as the coronavirus, based on the information provided by the sensorization of sewage networks, their modeling and the development of algorithms.