Is AI the future of asset management for water infrastructure?

Credits: Hades, AI for sewers

Insufficient public and municipal investment represents a major challenge for the long-term management of urban water infrastructure. In Germany, over the last decade, the annual investment for sewer rehabilitation amounted approximately to €4 billion. However, according to the German Institute of Urban Affairs, the capital investment needed is estimated to be over €7 billion, indicating a capital deficit of at least €3 billion.

This investment deficit has dangerous consequences such as degrading water and sewer services, higher flood risk, environmental impacts and, in the long run, higher emergency repair costs. Utilities all over the world are challenged to develop efficient rehabilitation strategies to avoid the ongoing deterioration of infrastructure, and to maintain appropriate levels of service and maximize the value of their assets in the medium and long-term.

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and modelling are promising solutions for utilities to improve asset management practices and the efficiency of inspection and rehabilitation strategies. Ground-breaking research conducted by Kompetenzzentrum Wasser Berlin (KWB) shows that this is possible. We tested statistical models and incorporated AI methods to evaluate their ability to enhance sewer forecasting and management. Based on these modelling approaches, practical tools to support rehabilitation planning, as well as inspection and maintenance prioritisation were developed. AI methods were also applied to fill gaps in sewer asset data, which is fundamental to ensure city-wide predictions and reduce model uncertainties.

Our models are just the tip of the iceberg, since many other AI solutions have already demonstrated their potential to improve asset management practices. In the upcoming IWA webinar on 20 April 2021 at 15:00 CEST, we’ll present more experiences and case studies on AI-empowered Asset Management. Experts from all over the world will demonstrate the potential of data-driven modelling and AI to support the asset management strategies of water and sewer networks.

We will present the current AI tools available on the market, and show their potential with concrete examples of their applications in cities, discuss uncertainties in the decision-making process, and address brand new research in this field. Our speakers, who are professionals from leading utilities, consultancies, and academia, will provide a comprehensive overview of issues and opportunities offered by new modelling and prediction capabilities. This webinar represents a unique opportunity to learn directly from real-life experience and to exchange knowledge with leading experts on the future of asset management using digital technologies.

This webinar is organized by the IWA strategic Asset Management Specialist Group (SAM SG) and the Urban Drainage Asset Management Working Group (UDAM). We look forward to seeing you at the webinar on 20 April, 15:00 CEST – sign-up here to reserve your place.


Featured image credits: Pallon, AI for sewers

Pascale Rouault

Kompetenzzentrum Wasser Berlin, KWB