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"We have already entered a new era when it comes to the water industry"

  • "We have already entered new era when it comes to the water industry"
    Contingency Plan to Ensure Supply in the Event of Drought. Joinville, Santa Catarina, Brazil. Credit: Companhia Águas de Joinville (CAJ)

Bentley Systems’ Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure recognize the work of Bentley software users towards the advancement of infrastructure design, construction and operations. Smart Water Magazine is conducting a series of interviews with the 2021 winners and finalists of the water categories: Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants and Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Networks.

The winning project in the Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Networks category was the Contingency Plan to Ensure Supply in the Event of Drought (Joinville, Santa Catarina, Brazil), by Companhia Águas de Joinville (CAJ), in charge of providing water and sanitation services to about 600,000 residents in the city of Joinville. They developed a contingency plan to ensure the water supply during worsening drought conditions, as the city experienced its worst water crisis in 30 years.

The CAJ-Joinville Water Company used OpenFlows WaterGEMS to create a digital twin of the distribution system, modelling 285 kilometres of network. Using the hydraulic model to simulate a new contingency plan, they arrived to a solution that guaranteed supply in case of a severe drought, while saving BRL 4.5 million compared to their original proposal. In addition, the new scenario reduces energy consumption by 574 megawatts per year.

Question: To what extent can digital tools help improve water infrastructure projects’ design, construction and operations?

Answer: We have already entered a new era when it comes to the water industry. Those companies that do not upgrade will be at serious risk of losing their municipal concessions and seeing their assets transferred to more efficient companies during the contract renewals.

A lot of this is related to the technological revolution we are experiencing. This revolution has already transformed the way we design, it is changing the way we build and right now it is coming with everything to change the way we operate our systems. Digital twins are already a reality and will bring a huge evolution to the industry.

We are completing the asset cycle, and those who want to work in high performance will have to adapt. Digital twins provide us with a broad view of our operation, allowing us to cost-effectively improve our system by making wiser decisions and making interventions only where they are really needed.

In order to make these decisions, it is necessary to see what is happening in the water supply system, and this is only possible with the use of appropriate technologies; fortunately, they are becoming increasingly accessible, which generates a movement towards the efficiency of the industry even in countries that have low water production costs.

The recipe for the technological evolution in our industry is simple, and depends only on three factors:

  1. Field operation data – so we can see what's going on in the system;
  2. Appropriate software – so that we can process the data and replicate it in the form of computational models capable of generating new scenarios;
  3. Technical knowledge of the system – so that analytics can be performed and insights can lead to optimization.

Companies that understand this and devote time and resources to conducting these studies will be on a successful path, in my opinion.

Q: What capabilities of Bentley’s tools do you think have been key for the success of your project?

A: In the case of our project, it would be practically impossible to have the insights we had if it weren't for the technological solutions available. The assessment of supply alternatives in complex networks requires, in addition to the broad knowledge of the studied system, the use of adequate modelling tools to solve the equations.

With regard to Bentley’s tools, the user-friendly interface and the resources available to import the assets’ data to build the model from other sources such as GIS, spreadsheets, drawings, contour lines, etc., are a big plus. This allows the engineering team to save a lot of time in the creation of the model and to focus on what matters: the analysis of the scenarios and the proposal of solutions to solve the problem faced.

Within a water company, the main benefits in this regard are the exchanges between the operation and engineering teams, as a feedback loop

The great advantage of the hydraulic models and digital twins is that they allow a reliable assessment of different operational scenarios without the prior application of resources and without affecting the people who depend on the infrastructure being studied. This is invaluable from a financial and social point of view.

In this context, the tools for creating alternatives and scenarios available in WaterCAD and WaterGEMs were critical, as they allowed us to create numerous operational scenarios and compare them in a practical and quick way. From these studies, we understood in time that some of the propositions initially proposed would not work, and we were able to develop new solutions that improved our supply system with a near to zero cost of implementation.

Q: Could you briefly explain what have been the social, economic and environmental impacts of your project?

A: Social and Environmental benefits:

  • Identified the initial project problems before the implementation, avoiding unnecessary construction.
  • Established a contingency plan capable of reducing the production by 30% (170 lps) in our fragile water source (Piraí) during the drought period.
  • Drought effects mitigation, benefiting 150,000 residents and businesses.
  • Reduced the chances of not meeting the ecological flow (Q7,10) during the dry period.
  • Supply dynamics improvement in our stable water system (Cubatão), reducing water shortage complaints by 90% in the critical sector.
  • Water losses reduction in critical DMA by approx. 40,000 m3/month due to day-night pressure management after implemented improvements.

Economic benefits:

  • Reduced the cost of implementation envisaged to meet the contingency scenario by BRL 4.5 million ($810,000 dollars).
  • Reduced the consumption indicator kW/m³ of the Florianópolis booster by 31% due to the optimizations indicated by the project. The indicator went from 0.134 to 0.092 kW/m³, which represents an annual financial saving of BRL 360,000 ($64,800/year) and a reduction in power consumption of 574 MW/year in the unit.
  • Increase in the pumping capacity of the Florianópolis booster by 25%, from 425 to 530 lps in operationally similar conditions.
  • Reduced the OPEX from the initial solution by BRL 25,000/month ($4,500/month).

Q: What benefits would you highlight from the use of digital tools in terms of collaboration between the different teams and the clients?

A: Within a water company, the main benefits in this regard are the exchanges between the operation and engineering teams, as a feedback loop. Operation teams bring reality and field problems, and engineering teams can dynamically assess through digital models which solutions are applicable, bringing a quick response and minimal impact to the end customer.

Q: Can you comment on the overall cost-effectiveness of using Bentley’s tools in the project?

A: Just considering this project, Bentley tools have already overpaid themselves and we still have many other studies in development with the potential to generate even greater returns. I think that the returns that we’ve experienced speak for themselves.

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