Smart Wastewater Management: Working Towards the Digital Twin

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January 29, 2020 | Jay Nelson

Smart wastewater management is the use of technology to optimize wastewater operations and sanitary network performance to provide reliable sanitation for communities, and to keep receiving water sources clean from pollution.

Why do we need smart wastewater management?

At Innovyze, we are dedicated to delivering innovation that empowers smart water and wastewater management around the world. As such, we align ourselves with global initiatives – such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) laid out by the United Nations (UN).

Goal 6 of this initiative focuses on delivering clean water and sanitation for all. While Innovyze has experience in delivering solutions for both potable water and wastewater network management, the focus of this article will be on using smart technology to keep receiving waters clean from pollution and improve service reliability from sanitary (or combined) sewer networks.

Listen to Experts at Innovyze Discuss the SDGs and 2020 Global Water Trends in our Recent Webinar

The formulation of the SDGs identified 4.5 billion people across the world that lack safely managed sanitation services, and 2.3 billion who lack even basic sanitation. This leaves only 39 % of the global population – 2.9 billion people – with access to safe sanitation as determined by the 2015 goals.

In terms of impact on the health of waterways that are on the receiving end of wastewater discharge, in 2015 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that 80% of wastewater went into waterways without treatment.

Smart wastewater management tools can help system operators reduce the amount of untreated discharge making its way into receiving waterways and ensure that sanitation networks meet service level goals.

Different forms of smart wastewater network management

Digital models of wastewater systems are great places to start for an organization looking to pursue smart wastewater management. From there, utilities can deploy live models that take in telemetered and SCADA data to get a picture of how the system is performing in near-real-time and consider future rainfall forecasts. Even further, operational analytics solutions are available that provide dashboards that outline historical time-series data as well as predictive analytics for proactive event management.

The Wastewater Model

Digital models give wastewater system managers a baseline to understand and simulate the performance of their network. If a sewer district needs capacity improvements, a wastewater model will help plan exactly where additional capacity is needed based on geographical characteristics and load allocations for both dry and wet weather conditions. Using a dynamic model for this purpose helped Central Contra Costa Sanitary District reduce capacity improvements by 30%, saving the District $10MM or more.

Additionally, a model can help locate sources of inflow and infiltration (I/I) as well as blockages, so that combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) are less likely to occur.

The Live Wastewater Model

A live wastewater model takes numerical modeling one step closer to smart wastewater management by integrating field data captured by telemetered devices and sensors throughout a network to provide a near-real-time view of conditions. This helps operators understand flow and capacity in its current state so that the wastewater network is managed in an optimum way.

For districts that are facing pressure to reduce CSO’s, a live wastewater model can pull in forecasted rainfall data to predict the likelihood of CSO occurring at outfalls outfitted with telemetry devices. 

The Digital Twin

The pinnacle of smart wastewater management is in developing a Digital Twin of a wastewater system. A Digital Twin for wastewater takes all asset location and condition information, simulates performance under a range of conditions, clearly visualizes the most salient points of action, and deploys machine learning to predict outcomes and provide prescriptive recommendations.

Webinar: See the Digital Twin in Action

The result is a system that mimics real-life conditions and provides a clear roadmap for optimized wastewater network management.

These tools empower truly smart wastewater management that can directly improve the performance of sanitary sewer or combined sewer networks so that less water is discharged into waterways before it is treated – keeping water clean. Also, that services are delivered at a high level of service, ensuring that reliable sanitation is available for those who need it, in line with Goal 6 of the UN’s SDGs.

Tags: sewer, smart wastewater

About the Authors

Jay Nelson

Jay Nelson

Marketing Content Manager


Digital technologies have the chance to change the way the world uses water. Jay is a Content Manager at Innovyze and writes about how the top challenges faced by water management professionals can be overcome using smart analytics.