Smart Water Utilities: Complexity Made Simple

Smart Water Utilities: Complexity Made Simple

by Pernille Ingildsen, Gustaf Olsson


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Smart Water Utilities: Complexity Made Simple provides a framework for Smart Water Utilities based on an M-A-D (Measurement-Analysis-Decision). This enables the organisation and implementation of “Smart” in a water utility by providing an overview of supporting technologies and methods.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780407579
Publisher: IWA Publishing
Publication date: 04/27/2016
Pages: 306
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)

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The challenges with which water utilities are faced today call for smarter control and management of our water resources.

The world population is growing; more people need fresh water as well as food, energy, products, etc. All of these goods require increasing amounts of clean water. Urbanisation in many regions is happening faster than the growth of water infrastructure and the establishment of good water reservoirs to supply the cities. The increasing standard of living further raises the expectations for sufficient amounts of clean water and seamless wastewater handling. This increases the pressure for a safe and clean natural environment and nature. As if nature for nature's own sake were not enough, we also need nature as a source of life as well as for recreational purposes. We need the nature, and nature increasingly needs us to collaborate.

Unsustainable water extraction and wastewater handling can take place for a while, but at some point water needs to be managed in a way that is sustainable long term. When more water is pumped out of the ground than is replenished, the water table drops and at some point it will be impossible to extract sufficient water or water of a sufficient quality from that resource. As a result of this process, the lakes and rivers may run dry. Where water has not been handled carefully, where rivers have been used to carry away waste streams, the problems of getting access to clean water become challenging – sooner or later. Like overspending on a bank account, sooner or later we will need to deal with unsustainable actions.

Emerging climate change further increases the pressure on the water infrastructure. This happens by changes of the pattern of the rainfall – the primary source for fresh water for all purposes. In that sense, the climate change challenges are mostly appearing as water availability. The changes will cause increasing incidents of water scarcity as well as increasing frequency of flooding events. Both situations lead to serious challenges for all people affected.

These challenges further increase the requirements to manage and control the water quantity and quality intelligently. From top to bottom we need to take better decisions to obtain sustainability and provide good water service to all. We need to handle water utilities "smarter".


So the challenge is clear. And happily new and effective tools and technologies are at the same time becoming available at an affordable cost.

New water treatment technologies are steadily changing the water infrastructure options. With current water treatment technologies, we are able to treat any quality of dirty water into any quality of clean water. This means that the old paradigm of one water type for all purposes change – purpose-sufficient water quality is enough. It also means that recycling of water may become a viable option economically as well as in regard to water quality and safety.

Sensors are becoming available for an ever increasing number of parameters. The quality and robustness are increasing rapidly and the required service is diminishing. This means that the sensors become more reliable and hence can be relied upon to a much greater extent for automatically handling critical processes. Online and real-time control means safer and more effective operation.

The combination of better sensors and new water treatment technologies is a strong enabler for decentralised and diversified water treatment. Plants can be run with a minimum of personnel attendance. Whereas earlier we had tens of sensors we will in the future have thousands of sensors in the water utility cycle to handle all the complexity in an effective way.

So what is the difference between having tens and having thousands of sensors?

The main difference is that we need some kind of automation to bring the thousands of data points into useful and actionable information. As an operator or a water consumer, I should not have to worry about all this complexity. As with the telephone network, for the most part, of the couplings should be handled "behind the curtain". The caller should just know whom he wants to call.


It is not possible to effectively manage and control systems and processes that are not well understood.

Whether the dynamics are fast (seconds or minutes), medium (hours) or long (days, weeks or months), we need data to make good decisions. Data from sensors, measurements, laboratory analysis, and observations. From short to long timescale processes and from water catchment to wastewater effluent, we need real-time and online data to measure what is going on.

However the enormous amounts of data continuously streaming in from a variety of sensors in a multitude of positions, together with all the other types of data is bound to be confusing unless a structured analytical system is set up to transform data into information.

The information has to be easily comprehensible, ideally green or red light indications – and in case of red light followed by an array of possible reasons for the malfunction and its correction. The information needs to be tailored to the many decisions that should be taken in the water cycle. From automatic decisions taking place in controllers, operational decisions about choice of critical set point, tactical decisions on how to replace or redesign the system and strategic decisions on the higher goals of the utility and its collaboration and interaction with the world around it.

A framework for Smart Water utilities based on a M-A-D approach (Measurement-Analysis-Decision) is proposed and elaborated upon in this book. This framework organises the "Smart" in a comprehensible way, which gives a good starting point for implementing "Smart" in a water utility by providing an overview of supporting technologies and methods. A tool box for all water challenges.


Water is a resource essential for all life. This perspective should penetrate all our handling of water. The challenges of water in a modern society are in many cases rooted in its apparent abundance. Traditionally, to the extent that water could be claimed and moved to the location of usage, the water problem was solved. However, as the population and cities have grown, industries are adding to the pressure on water resources; climate change is further adding to the stress; the former robust relationship between water in nature and water in society has become, or is at the verge of becoming, out of balance.

The rules have changed. Today the approach of 'every man for himself' cannot work. There needs to be some kind of water stewardship that ensures that the urban and the natural water cycles work together seamlessly and without destroying values in either place.

It will be possible to achieve this through intelligent water stewardship, and the water utilities hand in hand with the authorities at different levels are in charge of solving this task. The authorities set the requirements at the interfaces and the utilities should strive towards excellence in managing the water accordingly.

While water requirements today are quite crude and based mainly on maximum concentrations, future requirements will be based on the ecological quality of the recipients and reservoirs. Hence utilities need to acquire a deeper understanding of the urban water systems as well as the natural water system. Through an improved understanding better control can be achieved – and hence a better result. The solution is both technical and behavioural – but most of all we believe it is intelligent – and achievable by applying "Smart Water Utility" technologies.

While the mounting pressure from the demand pulls this area forward, the technology opens up new possibilities and creates a push effect.


Regulatory requirements, economics and efficiency are significant driving forces for any utility manager and for any water operation, small or large. The quality has to be satisfied at all times in the various parts of the urban water cycle, for the consumer of drinking water as well as for the lake or river receiving the treated wastewater. The quality requirement will become increasingly stringent and will have to be monitored around the clock. Of course this sets tremendous demands on instrumentation and frequent measurements of many different variables, but also on our ability to interpret an ever increasing torrent of information. It is apparent that this cannot be done manually. Instead, we have to trust that automatic systems can take care of most of the operational challenges, some in a very fast time scale, others appearing very slow, in periods of months and years.

Energy is usually the single largest operating expense in water operations so it makes economic sense to reduce those costs where possible through good control. The vision of zero or even positive energy plants has already been realised in some cases. Furthermore, wastewater is not waste, it is a resource, containing thermal energy, organic substances, phosphorus and many other interesting and valuable components. Therefore any wastewater treatment is nothing more than a water resource recovery process.


To measure is to know and obtaining reliable measurements is the fundamental condition for any good operation. In any plant operation, small or large, the primary goal is to (hopefully automatically) make sure that the equipment – pumps, motors, valves, etc. – are operating adequately. The next level of information is about water quality. The development of online sensors has been remarkable and it is logical that all water operations should take advantage of this.

There is a risk with having lots of data available, whereby we may become data-rich but information poor. Therefore it becomes increasingly important to exhaust the measurement data and make meaningful information out of it. With the computing power today, any computation effort is almost for free. Our challenge is to make the maximum use of the measurement and computational resources.

Still another crucial development is the revolution in communication. The "internet of things" makes it realistic to monitor any instrument wherever we are. It also means that competent people such as operators and process engineers do not have to be physically present at a process or a plant. The "death of distance" makes them available for operations of any scale and size.


This book is addressed to the entire water industry: managers, engineers and operators of water and wastewater utilities, consultants, designers of water infrastructure, researchers in university and industry, innovators, manufacturers of equipment, – and policy makers.

The concept of "Smart Water Utilities" extends by borrowing the use of "Smart" from the electrical energy arena (e.g. Smart Grid) to water. The book is about the full water cycle and how to manage and control it in an intelligent way by the use of online real-time data. A very simple model is proposed, called M-A-D: Measure–Analyse–Decide. So, basically:

1. Make sure you get the data you need, preferably in real time;

2. Make sure you analyse the data both correctly and creatively; and

3. Apply the results to take better decisions.

This is about decisions at all levels, from automatic control to management of the full water cycle and the organisation to handle it. Besides from presenting the M-A-D framework there is a number of interesting case stories from people working with Smart Water Utility concepts. The book ends with a number of visions, reflections and views into the future of Smart Water Utilities covering areas of management, technology and innovation, presented by leaders in the profession.

Basically our view is that today you can treat any kind of poor water source and convert it to any kind of high water quality you wish. It is all a matter of the cost and complexity of the treatment. Especially, it is about the energy that you put into the process as well as the required capital investment.

Energy and capital are the two main restraints keeping the world from reaching the grand water vision. But we know that in water laboratories all over the world, scientists and engineers are spending work-hours and night-hours pushing the technological limits to provide water smarter, and at a lower cost, both in terms of treating it and transporting it.

This book is about all these water innovations and how they can be used in the real world to benefit all. Part of the water industry is mature and water and wastewater are handled consistently and with few hiccups and have been for decades. But there is also an emerging area in which new-comers and visionaries tenaciously develop new water technologies and frameworks for how to handle the water more intelligently.

We can all contribute and have a role in creating the new and improved water utility: the water utility 2.0. It will require a lot of effort from all of the industry.

Having picked up this book and read this far, we welcome and encourage you to take part and join us on this travel into new and emerging possibilities.




In industrialised countries we are mostly blind to the various aspects of water. We simply take the clean water in the tap for granted and we are hardly aware of the dirty water that goes into our sewer systems.

For a long time it was impossible to see and quantify what exactly was going on in the various processes along the water cycle. Hence it was necessary to build the systems robustly and fail safe. Not surprisingly, this led to very large and inflexible water systems. The ability to look into the processes has increased dramatically over the last 10–20 years. What was earlier impenetrably unclear can now be measured online and continuously, and hence be visualised and understood.

Utilities that have embraced this transformation and welcomed the new sensors in their utilities have been surprised by the result more than once. What was once common understanding of how the systems operated has in some cases been confirmed and in many cases contradicted by real measurements, and new understanding has emerged. Phenomena that we previously had no idea about suddenly could be detected in the data and new and better explanation models could be developed.

Additionally the new information has made it possible to operate the system in a better and more responsive way based on dynamic data rather than assumptions about the average process behaviour.


To measure is to know. This book is about understanding the value of sensors and control throughout the water cycle – or more precisely throughout the water cycles. The main municipal water cycle defined as starting with water intake – through drinking water treatment and distribution, further on to the user, then to wastewater collection and treatment and returning to nature through disposal of treated wastewater – is supplemented by other water cycles, primarily the industrial, agricultural and ecological water cycles.

All of these cycles and their interactions have great potential for improvement through the application of sensors and control. As the water resources are being increasingly exploited to the last drop, it is important that this is done in a truly non-wasteful way. Sensors and control systems can inform our actions, ensuring that we act intelligently and deliberately and hence ensure an effective and good utilisation of the water resource.


The heart of the message of this book is that you need to measure in order to understand, and you need to measure in real-time to control. By transforming the invisibility of water quantity and quality into something visible and transparent, we are enabling and empowering true water stewardship.

Translating the high-level global and regional challenges and responsibilities of water stewardship into some manageable, practical actions is the next challenge – and it is not an easy one.

There needs to be a systematic approach and way of thinking on how to apply Smart Water solutions to transform our current ineffective water system into a next-century water system – a version 2.0 of water systems.

The definition of a "Smart Water utility" on the previous page is the closest we come to a strong definition. However what is more important is to define what kind of problems you are trying to solve and how to measure the progress toward that goal. Without Smart water systems it might be difficult to even define what you are trying to do. The invisibility of the water cycle needs to be changed in order to understand.


Excerpted from "Smart Water Utilities"
by .
Copyright © 2016 IWA Publishing.
Excerpted by permission of IWA Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

2. APPROACH, 26,
3. MEASURE, 60,
4. ANALYSE, 94,
5. DECIDE, 130,
7. TRENDS, 250,
9. NEXT STEPS, 298,

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