Superpowers for Water Systems
December 27, 2022
We all want superpowers. At least I do. Maybe we’re not faster than a speeding bullet or can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but your digital twin can give your team members who operate your water distribution systems powers they don’t have today. It’s not magic. It’s just the child of a happy marriage between your hydraulic model and your SCADA system. Let’s look at some of the superpowers your digital twin can give you.
Ordinarily, we can’t see water moving inside pipes. But with a digital twin, you can digitally look inside pipes and digitally see water moving without needing to dig up any streets. How is the water getting from your source to your customers? Which path is it taking? How will it change when you close some valves to isolate a pipe break or turn on backup pumps to respond to a fire? Your digital twin can give you a picture of where the water is going and how much is going there.
Know the Pressure Everywhere
A doctor can check your blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer (you know, one of those pressure cuff thingys). Water utilities can monitor the pressure at a handful of locations equipped with SCADA sensors or have operators manually check pressures at hydrants. A superhero may be able to feel the pressure from miles away. Your superpower with a digital twin is the ability to know what the pressure is anywhere in your system from the convenience of your office or the control room.
See the Future
You don’t need a crystal ball. With the help of the hydraulic model component of your digital twin, you can make a very good estimate of what your system will be doing one, two, or even 24 hours later. A hydraulic model can predict the status of the system even for situations that have never occurred previously, as long as the system follows the controls and demands established in the model. If the model and the SCADA data begin to diverge, it can alert the operator to an anomalous event such as a pipe break or a fire. Your super SCADA system can show you the past, but it takes a model to show you the future.
Pumps can be tricky. They may be robbing you by not running efficiently and if you don’t have the right analytical tools, even a super detective like Sherlock Holmes won’t catch the thieves. A digital twin can track down the sneakiest energy thief and pay back the utility with interest.
A Toolbox of Superpowers
A digital twin is not a single tool but a toolbox that enables many different personas in a water utility to look across many different sources of information to gain actionable insights into water system operations. James Galvani Junior, Manager of the Operation Engineering Department, Basic Sanitation Company of the State of São Paulo (SABESP) explained this well, “Through the creation of the Digital Twin using WaterSight, we are able to monitor our operation and the assets’ performance in the supply network. We can detect anomalous events, including reduction in pressure, changes in operational control valves, pumps, tanks, and other critical measurement points. We can also confidently understand data availability, delays, and data quality.”
The ability to see across a system to identify and resolve issues quickly as they occur can more than pay for investments in digital twin technology.
Digital twins don’t exactly give you superpowers, but with some good data and sound hydraulic principles, they can make your water operations look super-powered.