Digital sustainability in the water sector
The first-ever Digital Water Summit organised by the IWA will soon be taking place in Bilbao from 29 November – 2 December 2022. The Summit is a B2B event with key players from the water digitalisation sector. Chema Nebot, Business Development Director at Idrica, an international water technology company specialising in smart solutions and services for the industry, comments on the importance and challenges of digital sustainability in the sector.
Q: What is digital sustainability and why is it important?
Chema Nebot – Digital sustainability is a concept that is gaining increasing importance in the water sector. Nowadays, water utilities often struggle to integrate and exploit the data gathered from sensors and other digital management tools provided by different vendors. Our GoAigua platform can integrate data from all technologies and vendors to ensure water utilities can extract its value. Digital sustainability means that the data collected now and in the future is always accessible. It also means that the entire company speaks the same language, and has the same data for building indicators and making decisions.
The key to digital sustainability is forward thinking: figuring out how data can be used in the future. It’s not just about focusing on what we are managing right now, but also about the information we will need in the future to provide safe drinking water. It’s about combining all the data and indicators from different departments into a single data model in the utility.
Q: What steps can water utilities take to improve digitalisation?
CN: I believe that digitalisation within water utilities can be improved and harnessed through seamless data integration. Organisations need to speak the same language. The key is to combine data, emphasise the importance of IT departments within the utility and lever its extensive knowledge and know-how. Utilities are seeing the value of smart water solutions, and are implementing digital transformation plans.
Q: Do you have any specific projects and examples currently underway which could help utilities navigate the world of data and digitalisation?
CN: Yes, definitely. Our smart water platform is the result of the digital transformation process at the water utility Global Omnium, which started over a decade ago.
This platform is being used successfully by utilities around the world. For instance, the Spanish city of Valencia is saving 4M m3 of water per year thanks to technology. The software also optimises energy consumption, a topic which is particularly relevant at the moment due to skyrocketing energy prices in Europe. In other regions, like North America, we have reduced storm sewer overflows by over 70% in the city of Houston.
Overall, such case studies show there is a huge need for smart water solutions. Digital sustainability can be a means to use all this data for decision-making today and tomorrow.