Asia is a resource everyone needs and yet despite accounting for nearly half of the world's population, water management practices are inconsistent across Asia.
While water covers 71% of the earth’s surface, only 3 per cent of it is fresh water with only 0.3% found in lakes, rivers and swamps.
The scarcity of fresh water may be apparent among city dwellers, but safe and clean water is even more scarce in the less developed regions of Asia.
“There are areas of Asia where people do not have water infrastructure at all. So, bringing clean drinking water, bringing sanitation services, is important for people who don’t have access to it,” he revealed.
Speaking to FutureIoT at the 2023 Year in Infrastructure and Going Digital Awards, Herrin acknowledged the wide disparity of development when it comes to water management, citing places like Singapore where advanced infrastructure exists, and efforts exist to further optimise how the resource is consumed and managed, and to do so while reducing their energy consumption, their carbon footprint, improve reliability and reduce service interruptions.
On the other extreme, he goes on, are regions that are looking to just build infrastructure and provide that service.
The impact of decades of legacy infrastructure
Herrin comments that much of the current water and wastewater infrastructure is buried (under the ground). And because pipes are hidden, this presents the challenge of managing what is not easily visible.
He concedes efforts to bring technology that would make it possible to visualise and measure the water flowing through the networks of pipes, as well as simulate (model) how water is flowing through that underground network of pipes.
He cited the potential to use data collated from sensors that monitor water flow or pressure to determine the condition of the pipes and pumps.
“Combining it digitally lets you see things through this network of systems that you wouldn't be able to see if you were just using traditional methods,” he continued.
The state of water management
Herrin concedes software tools are used to help design the network of water systems as these can be complicated. However, a growing trend is in the use of digital twin technologies, particularly in complex use cases like water treatment facilities where complex issues like chemistry, biology, or the hydraulic characteristic of water (and wastewater) come together to undergo some treatment prior to distribution.
“All sorts of different types of engineers and other professionals are working together to try to make sure that everything functions the way it should,” explained Herrin. “If the plant process engineer decides that they need to change something, the structural engineer needs to make sure the building won't fall.
“There's an aspect of working with digital twins that helps those different collaborators be more effective in doing that type of work together,” continued Herrin.
He further cites the example of a (water) pump that will gradually degrade over time. “The pump may not operate as efficiently as it could, or if the conditions in the network are dramatically different from the initial design – the pump might not operate at all,” he posited.
Click on the video to see Herrin’s responses to the following:
- In Asia, what are the current constraints towards better water management?
- What does digital transformation look like in the water utilities sector?
- What is meant by digital water management?
- How do you see digital technologies enabling the water industry to support GHG emissions reduction?
- Do you need to go digital, and to what extent, to achieve ESG/sustainability targets?