Impacts: Covid-19 & Water Utilities
The COVID-19 pandemic’s lasting impact continues to strain utilities across the globe, but the Water and Sanitation Sector has had to face unique challenges. Frequent and proper handwashing is the most basic frontline defense against the spread of COVID-19, yet a quarter of the world’s population lacks access to reliable water supplies.
According to the United Nations, nearly one-third of people globally lack access to safely managed drinking water services, over half lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities and in the least-developed countries, approximately 22% of healthcare facilities lack access to improved water and sanitation services. This is the result of a combination of challenges the water sector faces, however utilizing digital technologies are at the forefront to tackling these challenges. Digital Technologies, especially artificial intelligence solutions like Maestro, will be critical in accelerating the path towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 6– ‘Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030’.
Revenue losses, as a result of COVID-19, have significantly slowed water utilities’ ability to make critical capital investments. Large industrial and commercial users of water slowed their usage as a result of the lockdowns. A survey by Global Water Leaders Group estimates that industrial water demand will fall by an average of 27% due to COVID-19. Crisis emergency measures, including partial suspension of bills for lower-income users and moratoriums on water cut-offs, have also led to a meaningful revenue loss for global water utilities.
While the decrease in industrial use of water may have had a positive impact on our global net zero goals, revenue losses have caused even further delay to the water sector’s infrastructure and digital upgrading. In some cases, to counteract the revenue losses, certain plants have had to delay critical infrastructure and maintenance upgrades. For example, in early May 2021, a former phosphate processing plant, Piney Point, in Palmetto, FL, was facing the potential of a catastrophic failure as a result of a leak. Piney Point has been a risk to the local environment of the Tampa Bay for at least 10 years, due to inadequate overflow procedures but in this case the leak that was identified could have lead to a catastrophic flood.
The leak was identified by personnel at least a few days after it had begun. This delay in leak identification, aided by reduced head count and maintenance expenditures as a result of COVID-19, could have been prevented with the use of Artificial Intelligence technology, such as Maestro. With the help of advanced metering, Maestro is able to detect leaks in real time and even predict potential weak spots all with the ability to automate a directive to solve the challenge, in an instant.
The intense labor requirements of the water industry made operational continuity difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many employees were deemed essential workers, social distancing protocols meant only critical staff could be on site, causing major supply chain and logistic disruptions. This makes the water industry a prime candidate for increased automation and artificial intelligence. We have seen that the plants with existing enhanced metering and controls systems prior to the COVID-19 pandemic performed much better during the crisis. Artificial Intelligence’s ability to predict and automate response to occurrences such as leaks and pipe bursts make water utility providers more agile and efficient while decreasing physical interaction amongst staff.
The water sector, which is used to a consistent demand, especially for chemicals and other consumables, has experienced one of the most serious interruptions in the overall utilities sector. With the help of digital technologies, especially artificial intelligence, the water sector can work towards addressing gaps in water supply, build a more resilient long-term CAPEX structure, increase continuity and respond better in the event of future crises. Additionally, the use of digital and artificial intelligence will allow the water sector to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal-6 by the target date of 2030, possibly even in advance of it.
Elutions has extensive experience deploying Maestro technology in the water sector, in clean capture, waste water and even desalination. Acciona Qatar is just one instance of a water utility harnessing the power of Maestro to optimize operations and achieve energy savings, thusly lowering their carbon footprint. Acciona cites Maestro as a platform that is, “scalable, which will allow ACCIONA to extend the benefits of AI to all its clients in the global water industry as part of its commitment to continuous innovation and service excellence.”
To learn more about what Maestro AI and Elutions can do for your corporation, contact us.