Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT December 2019

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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The Knowledge www.wwtonline.co.uk | WWT | DECEMBER 2019 | 21 Delivering a smart network Tom Mills, senior director UK&I at Sensus, examines what a smart water network really means – and how to get there. T he robust require- ments established by the UK regula- tor Ofwat for Asset Management Plan 7 (AMP7) are set to intro- duce significant and positive changes for the water industry. Water companies are o en tasked with updating Victorian era infrastructure, to make networks resilient enough for both climate change and pop- ulation growth. They also need to deliver a level of customer service that lives up to the best of other sectors. All this needs to be achieved while, keeping water an affordable resource for customers around the country. Ofwat acknowledges the scale of the challenge and is calling on water companies to draw on new technologies over the next five years: ultimately, asking each company to continue on its road to create a smart network. Digital technology offers great potential for the water industry. But just as in other networks, it's really important to understand exactly what "smart" means in the water industry – to avoid it becom- ing a catch-all buzzword. This article explores what actually makes a water network smart and how water companies can get there, within the require- ments of AMP7. What makes a network "smarter" For the water industry a smart network comes down to matching the physical network with digital technology. More data means a company can then better monitor, manage and maintain its network. A smart network, then, starts with deploying sensors or smart components across the infrastructure. That will then increase the volume and timeliness of data, including water pressure, demand on the network and the status of components. However, it's important to avoid simply focusing on gathering as much information as possible; many companies already struggle with an in- undation of "false positives," which can lead to missing leaks as a result. Instead, to be effective the task is to identify the signals that matter and determine the actions that should be taken as a result. Cross-referencing datasets and even applying machine learn- ing can help here. The most critical point about creating a smart net- work is that it isn't an objective to accomplish, but an ongoing process of improvement. Mak- ing the network smarter gener- ally involves introducing smart components and IT systems, o en gradually, into a huge organisation with incumbent systems, processes and work- flows. This has implications for how organisations both approach individual technol- ogy investments and prioritise areas for improvement. Smart networks in action To focus efforts to create a smarter network, it's im- portant to understand how improvements can impact different elements of the water company – and the implica- tions for meeting Outcome Delivery Incentives (ODIs) under AMP7. Perhaps the most immediate benefits of a smart-

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