Founded in 1973, Brazil-based Sabesp is owned by the São Paulo state and is responsible for the water supply, sewage collection and treatment of 371 municipalities in the state.
Considered one of the largest sanitation utilities in the world in terms of population served, we interview Marcello Xavier Veiga, currently working at the Planning and Development Superintendence with a degree in Business Adminsitration, on the company’s work in digitalization and how Sabesp is currently working to foster digital innovation across its various departments.
Question: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the water sector today?
Answer: Climate Change has forced many cities and countries to face challenges, such as very long droughts, that require quick and innovative solutions. This happened in São Paulo from the end of 2013 to the beginning of 2016, when Sabesp had to respond quickly and take non-conventional measures to keep providing the population with water. Another key factor was improving communication and raising awareness about the importance of a rational use of water, creating new habits that have remained even after the crisis and helped overcome the drought.
Q: And specifically, what are the challenges of this sector in Brazil?
A: Brazil is currently discussing a new sanitation regulatory framework, but I think the country’s biggest challenge is universalizing such service, which would bring health and improvement in the quality of life to the Brazilian people. To achieve this, there must be efficient enterprises – whether public or private.
One important issue is funding the universalization of water and sewage services. In a large country like Brazil, there are certainly many different situations. Sabesp is responsible for 1/3 of all the investment in sanitation nationwide and thus the state of Sao Paulo has developed-country rates. Other companies, like Sanepar in the state of Paraná, have also reached good levels, but this situation does not happen in the other regions of the country.
I think the country’s biggest challenge is universalizing such service
Q: How do you think smart water can contribute to facing these challenges?
A: Technological advancement can help a lot to overcome the challenges by reducing costs and rising productivity, generating better results. For instance, the use of an IoT network to manage customer consumption has been providing us with daily information, which has allowed us to have a quick response to any unusual deviations.
Q: How is SABESP fostering digital innovation currently?
Sabesp has been fostering digital innovation by stimulating its employees to be part of a culture of innovation in their activities. It has led not only to the application of IoT in operational and commercial procedures, but also to using augmented reality, automation in Water Treatment Plants, power generation in Wastewater Treatment Plants etc.
Sabesp has been fostering digital innovation by stimulating its employees to be part of a culture of innovation in their activities.
Q: What technological companies does SABESP work with?
A: Sabesp is a mixed capital company, and so must hire companies through public bids. We had a significant progress when we started using performance-based contracts, in which remuneration contracting depends on reaching the results, instead of simply depending on the delivery of a work or service.
Q: What do you think is the future of smart water technology?
A: Technology has been revolutionizing the labour market, and the sanitation business is no different: people will have to be prepared for this new scenario. Therefore, there will be more equipment/sensors installed in field and monitored remotely, with quicker and cheaper responses.