Water management is becoming one of the biggest challenges facing humanity, not only for economic progress, but also for sustainable development.
Population growth, the tendency to concentrate in urban centres, the change towards more intensive consumer patterns and the effects of climate change, which is causing increasingly longer dry seasons and catastrophic torrential rain, all mean the supply and treatment of water are now a real challenge.
Some relevant statistics to note[i]: 36% of the world's population live in water-scarce regions; by 2025 half the world's population will be living in areas at risk of water stress; two billion people are forced to drink contaminated water; only 39% of the world's population has access to adequate sanitation services; by 2030 it is estimated that 700 million people will have migrated from their places of origin due to a shortage of water.
Many initiatives are currently under way, which are led by national and regional governments, as well as multilateral entities, the aim of which is to mitigate these risks and reduce their effects. However, the true solution lies in investing in technology which allows this scarce resource to be managed in a smart way.
Ayesa has decades of experience in hydraulic engineering, leading the way in infrastructure sensorization in Spain. One of the most important projects in this area is the implementation of a smart system for the Taibilla Canals, which supply more than 2.5 million people with water. Measurement and monitoring sensors and systems were fitted on 180 installations connected via IoT, thus centralising and automating the management of all assets, including pumping stations, reservoirs, water treatment plants and canals.
The challenge now facing the water sector is to automate the entire operation, so that where water is harvested and when and how it is distributed may be managed in real time, in order to increase efficiency in terms of costs and consumption. The only way to achieve this is by using concepts from the world of smart technology or, as we call it at Ayesa, Smart Life.
Big data has solved the challenge that traditional forms of technology tended to come up against in terms of managing large volumes of information in real time. With this comes the need to install large numbers of sensors (for the Internet of Things), and, as a result of the economy of scale and the optimisation of technology, we now have a wide range of sensors available to us with much more affordable purchase and maintenance costs.
Once we are able to handle massive amounts of data, all we have to do is use artificial intelligence to detect trends and make forecasts.
We have everything necessary in order to able to increase areas covered by sensors on a massive scale for hydraulic infrastructures, with the advantages this offers in terms of the optimisation of maintenance, the efficient use of water (why water parks if it is going to rain in an hour?) and the identification of leaks (it is estimated that 25% of water is lost this way). Even more innovative solutions are now possible, such as foreseeing faults on parts of the network, determining trends in terms of invasive species appearing in river basins and studying the effect global warming has on them.
To sum up, the smart revolution offers proven technology, which brings with it many advantages for the water sector which, although it is implementing them, is not doing so at the pace typical of other sectors, such as utilities, a sector that is in the middle of a true digital transformation.
At Ayesa we have extensive experience in implementing these smart concepts, thanks to our expertise in sensors, infrastructures and artificial intelligence. We firmly believe that smart cities must include the smart management of their water, developing new, efficient and high-quality services.