Water is essential to our existence. The fact that we have a limited amount available invites us to reflect on its care and treatment. The lack of this resource worsens year after year, and this seems to be irreversible. In addition, a quarter of the world's population lives in countries at high risk to suffer a lack of water and more than 2 billion people don’t have access to potable water services or safe water management.
The global water crisis is mainly related to the pollution of lakes and seas, waste, and population explosion. Fortunately, we have at our disposal several alternatives to solve these situations. One is the use of technologies to develop infrastructures that help collect, treat, distribute, and store this resource more efficiently.
There is still a long way to go but I am convinced that, with the collaboration of governments, companies, and civil society, we will be able to mitigate causes that threaten the future of water. It is extremely rewarding to see more and more infrastructure projects designed to preserve this resource, which belongs to all of us, and the next generations should enjoy it. Technology has played a key role in the development and management of water infrastructure. I will now delve more specifically into two: BIM methodology and digital twins.
BIM Methodology and the Development of Water Infrastructure
The BIM methodology (Building Information Modeling) is defined as the intelligent process, based on 3D models, used for planning, designing, constructing, or managing buildings, mostly. However, the value this methodology provides is not limited to buildings; it is also an excellent alternative for developing water infrastructure in less time since it promotes better collaboration between work teams and reduces mistakes. In addition, it generates very important impacts in terms of sustainability since it contributes to more efficient use of resources and materials within a project and reduces waste.
BIM methodology has had positive impacts in the Latin American region. We were able to see this through an ambitious sewage system modernization project for the Brazilian Army, which was executed using Autodesk solutions. It involved an underground system that no longer had the capacity to contain floods, preventing the proper disposal of wastewater.
The challenge was to direct the dirty water to a treatment plant so that it would not flow into the rivers. To achieve this, several engineers used BIM methodology to create a digital model of the area, from which they managed to develop a more efficient sewer piping system that would not affect other lines, such as gas or electricity. It is worth noting that with the help of the BIM methodology, this process resulted in savings of up to 40% in working hours because the technology increased accuracy and prevented a considerable number of errors.
Digital Twins for Managing Water Infrastructure
A digital twin is a representation of a physical object that generates a thread of information from each of its components. Its purpose is to efficiently manage the asset, reducing total costs, including maintenance costs. An example of the application of this technology can be found at Innovyze — an Autodesk company — which developed the Info360 platform to help cities and municipalities to monitor and manage their water systems and identify challenges before they become crises.
Problems such as deterioration, obsolescence, disconnected technological systems, or limited financial resources are common in water infrastructure. To overcome these challenges, the Info360 platform creates and feeds to a digital twin, using data related to all phases of construction, from planning to completion. This provides a true view of the performance of operations and the progress of maintenance activities. Water operators use all this information to make better and timely decisions.
As an extension of Info360, the company developed the Info360 Asset, a technology that allows asset managers to leverage all inspection data, both historical and current. In addition, this tool continually updates risk levels as new inspection and condition data becomes available and is published in the asset’s digital twin. In other words, decision-making is always based on real asset issues, so that the appropriate action is taken, which may include the asset’s repair, restoration, or replacement.
Technology has come to facilitate many tasks that in the past were very complicated or impossible to achieve. The development of new infrastructure, side-by-side with the adoption of these tools, will help sustainable management of water resources, benefiting the lives of billions of people around the world. By taking care of water, we preserve our future.