Water Revolution: Towards a Sustainable Digital Future

Currently, the global challenges in water and sanitation for the future are deeply intertwined with the dynamics generated between digital technologies and renewable energy engineering, playing a fundamental role in actions aimed at sustainably managing water resources. Digitalization in water management is already a decisive factor in “Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,” as established by Goal 6 among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations

The need for urgent and coordinated actions on a global level is evident in addressing critical challenges in supply and management of water and sanitation. Ensuring a sustainable future for upcoming generations includes prompt solutions because, despite improvements in liquid usage efficiency, water stress and scarcity persist.

Despite advancements, it is estimated that the water crisis affects over 2.4 billion people. Studies conducted by the UN conclude that achieving universal coverage of safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene by 2030 (with the crisis expected to double by 2050) will require current rates of progress and limitations of global warming to significantly increase to mitigate the impact on water scarcity.

Efficient water management is vital to ensure its safe and sustainable availability. Faced with the contradictory and minimal availability of only 0.5% of usable freshwater on Earth, conflicts of various kinds, and climate change perpetually exacerbating water management challenges, greater investment, training, promotion of innovation, and intersectorial coordination are required.

Water Digitalization: An Urgent Solution

The transition to water digitalization is crucial in addressing this crisis and ensuring adequate and sustainable supply reaches everyone, as well as preserving this vital resource for future generations. Losses in supply networks, such as leaks during storage or distribution, represent a significant challenge, and digitalization offers solutions to monitor and address these issues.

Essentially, digitalization of water management is crucial in a range of applied variables. Digital technologies enable real-time data collection and monitoring from various sources, such as sensors, satellites, and IoT devices. These data provide information on water quality, quantity, and usage patterns, allowing for more informed decision-making in water resource management.

Advanced algorithms and Machine Learning techniques can perform predictive analysis and modeling on large datasets to predict water availability, identify potential risks such as floods or droughts, and optimize water distribution systems for maximum efficiency. Meanwhile, spatial data provided by Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and remote sensing technologies allow mapping and visualization of water resources, basins, and infrastructure, thus identifying vulnerable areas, planning infrastructure projects, and assessing the impact of climate change on water resources.

Improving operational efficiency and reducing water losses is another achievable outcome with water digitalization, by facilitating the development of smart water networks equipped with sensors and actuators that can automatically detect leaks, manage water flow, and optimize energy consumption in water distribution systems. Similarly, digital technologies enhance the efficiency of water treatment processes through automation, optimization algorithms, and real-time monitoring of quality parameters. In regions facing water scarcity, desalination plants powered by renewable energies alongside digital control systems offer a sustainable solution for freshwater production.

Sustainable Water Resources Management

Numerous water digitalization projects are underway worldwide. The Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE), advanced by the Spanish government to promote economic recovery and the country’s transformation, includes digitalization of the water cycle as one of its components. Its goal is to advance environmental protection, improve water resource management, and combat climate change amidst demographic challenges, promoting the use of new information technologies in the comprehensive water cycle to enhance its management, increase efficiency, reduce losses in supply networks, and advance compliance with environmental objectives set by hydrological planning and international regulations. This entails funding programs to promote the digitalization of various water users and opening up new professional niches in water management among engineering, data processing, science, and telecommunications professionals.

Similarly, in Spain, Ecolab leads a notable effort in water management through its innovative platform, ECOLAB3D, integrating artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics, allowing industrial and agri-food facilities to thoroughly analyze their water sources, optimize their use, and achieve an optimal balance between water and energy efficiency, resulting in tangible improvements in productivity and profitability of operations.

In Singapore, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has implemented a comprehensive Smart Water Grid network to contribute to sustainable water management practices. The initiative integrates advanced sensors, IoT devices, and data analytics to monitor water quality, detect leaks, and optimize real-time water distribution. To offset the energy consumption of water treatment plants, Singapore is utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar energy.

In Los Angeles, a holistic approach has been adopted treating stormwater as an asset rather than a liability. This includes transforming impermeable surfaces into permeable ones, creating expansion lands, and green areas in urban infrastructure. The success of this innovative approach to water management was demonstrated during a recent heavy rainfall in the city, where thanks to a “sponge” infrastructure of permeable surfaces and expansion lands, it allowed the capture of 8.6 billion gallons of rainwater, enough to supply over 100 thousand households for a year.

In Australia, the water desalination program with renewable energy implements renewable energy technologies powering desalination plants in water-scarce regions. Harnessing solar, wind, and wave energy, these plants sustainably produce freshwater while minimizing carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Global Innovation in Action

Projects like the “Smart Water for Agriculture” initiative in India, which manages data-based irrigation, utilize satellite imagery, weather forecasts, and soil moisture sensors to optimize irrigation scheduling. The use of digital technologies is reducing water wastage and helping farmers make informed decisions about water usage.

Several water digitalization projects are underway worldwide. For example, the Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE), led by the Spanish government, aims to promote economic recovery and the country’s transformation, including the digitalization of the comprehensive water cycle. This involves the application of information technologies to improve and optimize water resource management, combat climate change, promote efficient water use, reduce losses in supply networks, and meet environmental objectives established by hydrological planning and international regulations.

In Spain, Ecolab’s work and its ECOLAB3D platform stand out, aiming to promote efficient and proper water management, especially in the agri-food and industrial sectors. It has a digital solution incorporating AI, IoT, and advanced analytics to analyze the different sources used by a facility and reduce the operational cost of water. Thus, it ensures savings without contributing to increased energy expenditure, achieving greater efficiency and productivity.

While some NGOs and research institutions collaborate on projects using low-cost sensors and mobile applications to monitor water quality and quantity, empowering local communities in Africa, the Dutch water management sector is leveraging digital twin technology to create virtual replicas of water infrastructure systems. There, specialized engineers can simulate different scenarios, optimize operational performance, and predict maintenance needs, ultimately enhancing the resilience and sustainability of water management practices against climate change.

Efficient Water Reuse by Amazon

On another front, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is committed to water positivity by 2030, aiming to give back to communities more water than it consumes in its operations. In the face of the growing water crisis, AWS recognizes the urgency to act and harnesses new technologies, financing models, and business strategies, implementing innovative solutions to address global water challenges effectively.

In its data centers, AWS employs advanced cooling systems using innovative evaporative and free-air cooling techniques, significantly reducing water consumption. Additionally, AWS invests in on-site water treatment to recycle water for cooling purposes, contributing to water conservation efforts.

AWS collaborates with local communities and public utilities, and in regions facing severe water scarcity, such as California, prioritizes the use of recycled water for cooling, minimizing pressure on potable water sources. Thus, it ensures safe and efficient water reuse, benefiting both the company and local communities.

Through strategic partnerships and innovative technologies, such as its collaboration with organizations like Water.org and The Nature Conservancy, AWS funds initiatives to improve access to water, restore watersheds, and enhance water quality in various regions. This involves actively working on replenishing water-scarce areas and supporting water-related projects worldwide, focusing on factors such as efficiency, recycling, reuse, and replenishment of water.

Strategic Partnerships for a Sustainable Future

To mention some advances in our territories, the Colombian multinational AZLOGICA®, with a presence in ten countries in Europe and America, and committed to Sustainable Development, also stands out as a model of excellence in digital solutions for water management.

On one hand, its contribution to its ally Biotérmica Innovación, a company with 11 operating plants, which stands out for its versatility in the selection of organic waste and simultaneous production of Biooil, Biochar, and Synthesis Gas. These procedures are closely linked to the cutting-edge digital technologies provided by AZLOGICA® in water management. A clear example of this alliance is that the biochar produced by Biotérmica’s bioreactor, being a porous carbon, absorbs eight times its weight in water and is used as a substrate in desert soils or as an amendment to retain water. By harnessing the power of data analysis, automation, and decentralized systems, resource utilization is optimized, environmental impacts are reduced, and the transition to sustainability and the circular economy is promoted.

Similarly, its alliance with Nokia Corporation for the implementation of an entire digital technological system that allows managing and optimizing the water cycle, in terms of consumption and distribution of the liquid for the inhabitants of the industrial city of Guanajuato Puerto Interior (GPI) in Mexico. This large integrated transportation infrastructure, with commercial operations and exports through high-quality logistics services, will soon be equipped with AZLOGICA®’s technological deployment in Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, for the so-called “GPI Water Management Project 4.0”. With suitable data management and operational platforms, it will enable optimization of these water services, based on analytics, early warnings, and intelligent reports.

Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, AZLOGICA®’s AI and IoT solutions set standards of excellence for generating more inclusive, safe, and resilient spaces and infrastructures, thus providing necessary tools for better-informed decision-making and contributing to the broader objective of sustainable development.

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