A recent UN report on global clean water and sanitation suggests that over 40% of the world population still doesn’t have access to safely managed drinking water. The report also reveals that more than half of the world population (4.5 billion) doesn’t have access to a safe sanitation system. It also indicates that almost 2 billion people are using water sources contaminated with sewage.
In short, the noble purpose of delivering clean water and sanitation needs serious attention and innovation. It has to be addressed as soon as possible by combining sustainable development with the intelligent management of infrastructure.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to help resolve challenges related to clean water and sanitation. It is helping utilities and municipalities to better manage their water and wastewater systems to ensure a clean and sanitized water supply. Some utilities and water-intensive industries have already started using AI to innovate services related to water deliverability and sanitation. Now, they have a more effective way to monitor water quality, manage usage, and predict aging infrastructure maintenance needs.
Provided below are two key areas where AI can help utilities provide efficient water and sewer services to their communities and stakeholders:
AI Reduces the Spending Stress of Water Treatment Facilities
Currently, the status quo of water treatment plant operation is a challenge for many utilities. Inefficient operations, high energy bills, and costly chemical dosing regimens can lead to a tight budget, and with the added concern of compliance, priorities become even more difficult to balance.
In many cases, the unavailability of funds eventually pushes facility managers to run plant operations on suboptimal levels increasing the risk for compliance violations but more importantly, harming the communities served.
AI technology applied to existing IT investments helps utilities run water treatment facilities more efficiently by reducing their OPEX (operating expenses). AI-powered software solutions learn from a plant’s past performance and then prescribes optimal control actions based on a plant’s energy and chemical goals as well as the system’s real-time and forecasted conditions.
These types of AI solutions can optimize the operator’s time on routine tasks so they can be focused on high priority site-specific goals and KPIs. From a financial and operational standpoint, running an energy-efficient and operationally optimized water treatment plant is more feasible using an AI solution.
AI can Improve the Quality of the Effluent Leaving Wastewater Treatment Facilities
Sewage flowing into freshwater bodies and tributaries harms the environment, exposes significant health risks, and can have significant compliance fines.
The status quo leaves many wastewater treatment facilities using legacy systems with lots of manual dependencies that can’t strike a perfect balance of pH stabilization, coagulation, flocculation, and C: N: P ratios. As a result, the sewage effluent is not treated for the required sanitation levels leading to the risks mentioned above.
Intelligent plant operations, powered by AI can assist each step of the wastewater treatment process by enabling predictive control. It can optimize aeration, anaerobic digestion, membrane bioreactors, membrane recovery, membrane cleaning schedule, and chemical dosing to ensure the effluent leaving the facility doesn’t contain harmful elements.
A software application, such as Emagin, can provide the AI-assisted solutions discussed above. It leverages machine learning to analyze wastewater treatment plant data and provide predictive recommendations so that plants can meet clean water and sanitation objectives at the best-operating costs.