February 23, 2018

Smart Water Cycle management - averting an impending crisis

Water systems make up the base to keep our ecosystems thriving. These systems are becoming highly stressed under the pressure of feeding the growing population. Optimizing municipal water supply and the industrial processes involving water with innovative technologies is a step towards better future for water and with it for all of us.

As one way to think of the importance of water as part of the existence of all living things, you can stand in front of the mirror and imagine that 60% of your body is water. With some organisms this figure is up to 90%. There would be no me, you or Frankie the dog next door without the existence of water supply on Earth. It is easy to think that there will always be plenty of water, as it covers 70% of our planet. From this vast amount however, only 3% is fresh water, meaning the stuff we drink, bathe in and irrigate our farm fields with. As many as 1.1 billion people of the total global population of 7.6 billion lack access to fresh water to meet the minimum level of health. 2.6 billion find water scarce for at least one month a year. Inadequate sanitation is also huge problem exposing 2.4 billion people to highly severe and potentially deadly water-borne diseases.

The competition for water needed daily is increasing among cities, farmers, industries, energy suppliers and ecosystems around the world. The ever-growing demand for water is putting water systems under significant stress. Stress based changes in water regimes and the accelerating speed of groundwater depletion can have serious consequences in several regions in the coming decades. Business models supporting innovative solutions and technologies will be needed to secure water-related services.

Between 2000 and 2050 demand for water will increase 400% only in manufacturing industry

Worldwide water consumption can be divided into categories by field of use; agriculture bites the biggest share with 70%, with commerce and industry coming second with 20%, and households 10%. Although households and the industry sector use far less water than agriculture, the growth in consumption in these sectors has been remarkable. In fact, industries consume more than half of the water available for household use in industrialized nations. According to International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Water Outlook for 2025 the withdrawals for domestic and industrial uses have already quadrupled between 1950 and 1995. The Global Water Forum has projected that between 2000 and 2050 the demand for water will increase by 55%. With the majority of the increase coming from the manufacturing industry (+400%), electricity (+140%) and domestic use (+130%).

People have developed many ways, practices and policies to use water more efficiently and to get more out of each unit. Choices made collectively by the world’s people have a critical influence factor in the future for water. These choices towards reviving sustainable development in industrial water consumption can be seen in investments in water infrastructure, allocation of water to various uses and in reforming water management to boost water productivity. There is much potential in saving water by improving the efficiency of domestic water use as well as investing in industrial water usage efficiency and recycling. Optimizing municipal water supply and the industrial processes involving water with innovative technologies is a step towards better future for water.

New smart industrial IoT solutions enable resource optimization throughout the entire complex industrial processes

The biggest challenges the municipal water systems are facing are in disruption management, including managing and minimising high leakage levels. This is in addition to hit-and-miss water quality monitoring. An inadequate level of water quality monitoring is a general challenge in industrial processes across industries. Altogether causing water waste, wetland pollution and unnecessary production costs. New industrial IoT solutions are bringing industrial processes securely online. This digitalization enables remote and accurate process monitoring, which increases predictability, and brings visibility to the causal connections in industrial processes. Smart process management enables resource optimization throughout complex industrial processes, allowing fast reaction times in case a disruption in the process takes place, thus minimising water waste and downtime of the process with huge cost savings potential. Advanced and appropriate quality measurement technologies allow wastewater to be monitored and treated safely and efficiently to a variety of nonpotable reuse purposes, as well as to prevent wetland pollution allowing safe disposal.

Investments in infrastructure and technologies to enhance the efficiency of existing use together with water management reforms is the sustainable route to take. When adopted properly, analysts call these actions a cause for hope. We call it the Smart Water Cycle.

Fresh water scarcity does not show its face in everyday life of many of us, but it is real, and it is ugly. Water systems make up the base to keep our ecosystems thriving. These systems are becoming highly stressed under the pressure of feeding the growing population. During the 20th century, half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared, and the remaining ones are now drying up or getting too polluted to use. When the same source of water is shared for economic, social and environmental causes the responsibility to develop mutually beneficial sustainable water strategies is also shared. Failure to adopt water saving technological improvements or policy reforms, the ever-growing consumption is making water scarcity worse and damaging entire ecosystems around the world. There is no time to waste in reforming the water sector. We should get our focus right, and make wise choices to protect this vital resource.

Learn more about smart process management through industrial IoT solutions at uros.com.