Twin to Win. Lessons learned from the Aquatech Online BreakOuts event

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Idrica has recently participated in the Aquatech Online BreakOuts, an interactive live event series with water industry thought leaders. In the webinar, held on June 13th and entitled: “Twinning to winning: Digital Twin innovations in water, from concept to reality”; our Digital Twin Manager Pilar Conejos shared her thoughts about the role of digital twins in water distribution systems.

The event was organized by Aquatech and sponsored by Idrica. The speakers included Jesper Kjelds, Chief Digital Information Officer at Aarhus Vand, Biju George, Executive Vice President of Operations & Engineering at DC Water, and Pilar Conejos, Digital Twin Manager at Idrica and former Head of Network Control at the Spanish water utility Global Omnium. The event was hosted by Tom Freyberg and moderated by Gigi Karmous-Edwards.

The panel highlighted the fact that digital twins can enable water utilities to bring internal teams together so as to digitally transform knowledge exchange and drive a culture of innovation.

Read on for more insights shared by the panelists during the webinar.

“It is a very effective tool that is bringing the physical system and virtual system together to optimize service”

Biju George opened the panel by explaining that DC Water has been “on the digital twin journey” for some time. This utility’s main concern was to optimize the use of hydraulic models and real-time simulation capabilities, supported by real-time sensors and information.

Talking about digital twinning as a part of the utility infrastructure, Biju explained two cases of the few utilities that were using the digital system to leverage the available capacity and then made that part of their legal settlement with the EPA.

George also recalled a major flooding event in September 2020 that drove the utility to get better data and insight to manage such events in the future.

Referring to the digital twin, Biju stated that “it is a very effective tool that is bringing the physical system and virtual system together to optimize service.”

“With digital twins we can try and test new ideas and minimize risks, time and costs”

Pilar Conejos started her speech by defining what a digital twin is. “A digital twin is a virtual copy of the real system that represents its behavior and serves as a basis for experimentation.”

According to Pilar, this means that “we can try and test new ideas and new changes virtually, before making a decision in the real system.” Therefore, “we can minimize risks, time and costs.”

“However, developing a digital twin is a challenge because you need investment and an innovative organization and culture. Having a digital twin involves a new way of working,” she added.

Pilar explained that a digital twin can help to address a number of challenges, such as increasingly complex water distribution systems, climate change, the need to optimize performance, and the fact that water supply must be guaranteed 24/7, as it is an essential service.

Pilar went on to share her experience in the city of Valencia, which is home to 1.7 million inhabitants and includes a 2,500 km distribution network. The city’s Digital Twin controls a network of 900 km, 430 pressure meters, 200 flow meters and 10,000 virtual sensors all connected in real-time.

Pilar Conejos added that “we know what is happening at 10,000 different points in the network. This is very important because it provides us with a huge amount of information.”

Idrica’s Digital Twin Manager also mentioned the case of Calpe, a municipality that is smaller than Valencia but has fluctuating water supply demands. Since it is a tourist destination, it needs to supply water to 100,000 people in summer and only 20,000 people in winter.

“The GoAigua Digital Twin works on a hydraulic model connected in real-time so we know what’s happening in 3,000 points on the network,” she said.

In conclusion, she added that digital twins have four main uses: “what if” scenarios (past, present or future), forecasting system operation for the following 24 hours, decision-support system for emergency response, and estimating values for non-telemetered points (virtual sensors).

“The Digital Twin framework will be a cornerstone with our efforts on digitalization”

Jesper Kjelds, from Danish utility Aarhus Vand, moved the conversation onto twinning the wastewater treatment side of the business by showcasing a unique example from the city of Aahrus.

“We swim in our harbors in Denmark, and that is primarily due to using digital twins in our wastewater treatment plants,” he remarked.

Kjelds believes that, besides mirroring drinking water networks, digital twins can enable a more integrated approach across the entire water cycle.

Jesper also talked about the Aahrus ReWater project, which the utility intends to be the world’s most resource-efficient wastewater treatment facility when it comes online in 2028. As he stated, “the project will be born digital”.

GoAigua, the Digital Twin developed by Idrica and implemented in Global Omnuim

As we have learned from the panelists, the power of a digital twin lies in its ability to bring the real and virtual worlds together. Watch the webinar recording here.

GoAigua’s Digital Twin, developed by Idrica and implemented in the Spanish water utility Global Omnium, enables the city to optimally manage its daily operations, plan real-time scenarios, and predict the future behavior of the network. This Digital Twin, thanks to GoAigua’s IoT and Big Data Platform, constantly leverages data from 1M smart meters, pressure/flow sensors, SCADAs, and other systems to virtually replicate the behavior of the network in real time with outstanding accuracy.

Idrica, the leading company in digital transformation for the water industry, offers innovative services and the GoAigua solution, including the Digital Twin technology, for water cycle management.

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