Digital twins for the water industry are virtual replicas that simulate water systems, enabling more efficient water management. Learn more about the digital twin technology!
The concept of digital twins is now widely recognized. They are digitized models capable of virtually replicating objects and processes in the physical world, enhancing all aspects related to resource management, maintenance, and monitoring.
Although we’ve witnessed the disruptive spread of these models across various sectors in recent years, not everyone is familiar with the potential that digital twins offer in the water industry. Discover these potentials with me in this article, exploring some of the most significant applications.
Moreover, start using advanced software solutions to make water management even more efficient, cost-effective, resilient, and sustainable. Try out:
- Digital twin software to create digital replicas of your water assets, providing real-time insights into their functioning and performance;
- Facility management software to automatically locate each resource or infrastructure, managing planning, control, monitoring, and maintenance activities from a centralized platform.
What is a Digital Twin for the Water Industry
Digital twins are dynamic digital models built to virtually represent entities in the physical world and describe their real-time behavior. They harness data analysis and intelligent connections to simulate the effects of different scenarios and make future predictions, delivering consistently accurate and actionable results.
In the water sector, digital twins have been introduced to achieve a detailed and reliable digital reconstruction of physical assets comprising urban water networks, building water systems, rainwater recovery facilities, wastewater disposal systems, treatment plants, and more.
These models can integrate data from various sources to simulate and continuously monitor the performance of their physical counterparts. Furthermore, they provide water industry professionals with a powerful tool to optimize maintenance activities for their systems, enhance decision-making processes, and ensure more efficient and sustainable water resource management.
Key Components of a Digital Twin for the Water Industry
For a digital twin to be operational and effectively contribute to the management of water resources and infrastructure, it must have the following components:
- GIS data: Digital twins for the water sector need to integrate with GIS (Geographic Information System) systems to enable rapid and effective localization of vertical resources (such as pumps and tanks) and linear horizontal infrastructures (like channels, pipelines, and conduits);
- Environmental data: Smart sensor usage contributes to collecting data about environmental conditions that can impact the operation and performance of a water infrastructure. For example, data about precipitation helps understand how quickly a rainwater storage tank will fill;
- Performance data: By storing historical data about the performance of water systems, digital twins can evolve and improve over time in their ability to replicate and predict the behavior of their physical counterparts;
- Data analytics: This is of paramount importance as it allows the digital twin to transform into a predictive tool, capable of assessing future performances of water assets, anticipating potential issues, and providing effective solutions to enhance water management;
- Digitalization: For it to be truly useful, a water infrastructure’s digital twin must provide a clear and understandable visualization of various analyses’ results. It should leverage digital technologies to make information easily accessible to stakeholders (for instance, through data dashboards) and improve multi-user communication.
Why Digital Twins Matter for Water Services
Digital twins harness the power of BIM modeling, data analysis, and advanced simulation to provide a proactive, sustainable, and resilient approach to water management.
They integrate data collected from IoT devices, smart sensors, and other sources to continuously monitor and analyze the behavior and performance of water infrastructure.
Furthermore, they provide organizations responsible for water management and supply with the opportunity to:
- improve business processes;
- optimize resource utilization;
- reduce operational costs;
- increase efficiency;
- mitigate potential risks;
- minimize environmental impacts.
Through the use of digital twins, water industry professionals can simulate hypothetical scenarios and critical situations, including emergencies, health alarms, and events related to climate change. This allows for anticipating issue resolution and enhancing response capability through timely and targeted interventions.
Digital twins also play a crucial role in managing all processes related to water treatment, purification, and wastewater disposal.
How Digital Twins Aid Wastewater Reduction
Leveraging digital twin technology in the water sector enables continuous monitoring of wastewater disposal systems, providing updated and reliable information on the proper functioning of sewage networks.
Through real-time monitoring, utilities can detect and address potential issues promptly (such as leaks or excessive water use), minimizing discharge volume.
With the help of sensors placed on physical infrastructure, it’s possible to pinpoint leaks affecting disposal systems (such as pipes or water storage tanks) with extreme accuracy. This allows for proactive intervention and effective solutions against discharges that could pose a significant environmental threat.
Digital twins can also be used to simulate and analyze the functionality of treatment plants. They help optimize purification processes and evaluate different strategies to maximize treatment efficiency and reduce effluent generation.
Equally important to the aforementioned applications is the ability of digital twins to analyze water consumption patterns and identify areas of waste or high usage. By analyzing demand trends, organizations can implement measures to reduce water consumption and consequently limit excessive wastewater production.
Using Digital Twins for Water Management: 5 Essential Applications
Here are the 5 most significant applications of using digital twin technology for managing building and city water systems:
- Performance monitoring: Digital twins provide up-to-date and reliable information on the operation of water infrastructure through their ability to establish a two-way connection with the physical world. These insights can be used by industry professionals to identify inefficiencies, proactively address issues, and enhance overall system performance;
- Predictive maintenance: Real-time data collection and analysis by digital twins enable the prediction of maintenance needs and addressing issues before they occur. This proactive approach contributes to reducing downtime of water equipment, extending asset lifespan, and lowering maintenance costs;
- Risk management: Digital twins help assess and manage risks related to water supply, infrastructure vulnerabilities, and extreme events. They enable simulation and analysis of various scenarios, facilitating the development of effective emergency plans. Additionally, they improve the resilience of water systems and enable appropriate responses to potential disruptions;
- Decision support: Digital twins constitute a virtual platform that allows utilities to test and evaluate various intervention strategies. They simulate the impact of possible changes on water system performance and assist organizations in making more informed decisions;
- Resource management: Using digital twins allows water operators to optimize the allocation and distribution of water resources. Simulation and data analysis help manage demand for drinking water and optimize treatment processes, leading to increased efficiency, waste reduction, and significant cost savings.
Digital twins represent the future of infrastructure and water service management. To stay ahead in this transformation, start using:
- Software for creating digital twins to begin virtually replicating your water assets and monitoring their performance in real time;
- Facility management software, a centralized platform that simplifies geolocation of water resources and supports you in every process related to managing, maintaining, and monitoring water distribution infrastructure.