As the use of Digital Twins across water utilities grows, so too does the evidence showing the value they bring to water utilities in helping them optimize the performance of their water networks.  However, alongside the growing body of case studies that detail water utilities’ successful use of Digital Twins is the widespread perception that utilities must have the gold standard of hydraulic models to be able to build a Digital Twin in the first place.  Clarifying this misconception, I spoke at the SWAN Digital Water Hub at Aquatech Amsterdam 2021 and explained how Qatium works with small and mid-sized water utilities to get them up to the standard they need to operate a Digital Twin.

Why water utilities don’t need a gold standard hydraulic model to access a Digital Twin

It’s well known that small and mid-sized water utilities often struggle with the high setup costs involved in technological transformations.  However, utilities don’t need highly sophisticated hydraulic models to benefit from Digital Twins. In fact, small and mid-sized utilities can get up to the standard that is required for a Digital Twin relatively easily. We worked with two smaller and mid-sized utilities, who were starting their Digital Twin journey from different points. Both had the goal to leverage the technology to optimize their water networks.

Moving towards a Digital Twin: two utilities with different starting points

No two water utilities have the same technological blueprint. In the cases of Waterloo and Lakewood below, Qatium was able to combine each utility’s existing platforms with the Qatium platform to build Digital Twins that served each utility’s unique needs.

Waterloo, Canada

Population of 140,000 customers and 430km of water mains The city of Waterloo’s had no hydraulic model, but they did have an open data platform where they shared their entire GIS platform with the public. With this, we were able to develop a hydraulic model based on open GIS data in the Qatium platform. Qatium was then able to refine the model. We downloaded it and made modifications to create a working model. Since Waterloo had the benefit of having about 50 sensors in the ground, we were able to link into those directly and actually see the results of that model, giving them a working model within a couple of days. 

Lakewood, California 

Population of 80,000 customers and 290km of water mains In the city of Lakewood, California, the utility had a steady state planning model, but its hydraulic model was very limited in its ability to provide the correct answers.  Together with the city of Lakewood and North Carolina State University, they developed a plan and process to upgrade the utility’s hydraulic model. While their hydraulic model was good for master planning, we wanted to go further and develop a fully extended period simulation model that would work as a Digital Twin.

Ways to make Digital Twins accessible to all

It’s important for the platform to be built with several stakeholders in mind, not just engineering teams. You should extended it to operators, analysts, and managers so that everyone has access to the tool. That’s part of the reason why Qatium is a web-based application so that it can be deployed to everyone in the organization without any issues.  Gamification should also be a significant element of the platform. For example, when you’re at a certain level, the platform gives you hints like you don’t have enough data yet, maybe you should start doing a FIFO analysis, or maybe you need to improve your calibration to move to the next level. All this helps users, regardless of expertise, to move towards their own Digital Twin. As well as gamification, you can also boost accessibility by simplifying operational scenarios. Break them down into simple scenarios so that anyone can run them. From selecting a pipe, finding every single customer that is impacted, and running the simulation — users should be able to do all this in one click.

Start your Digital Twin journey

There’s no reason why an island with one hundred people or a city with one million people can’t have a plan; everyone should be able to have access to Digital Twins. Thats is ultimately Qatium’s goal.  No matter the size of your utility, Qatium makes implementing a Digital Twin a straightforward exercise. You can get up-and-running quickly by creating an account and uploading a GIS dataset or hydraulic model. And, with its simple and intuitive user interface, even non-technical users won’t require training. Interested in putting a Digital Twin into practice? Try Qatium. It’s completely free to create an account and to start building your own Digital Twin today.

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