Brad Dreier is Vice President of Business Development for GoAigua in the US. Over his 30+ year career in the water sector, he has held numerous positions from tech support to field services to introducing new products and technology.
In this interview, he shares with us how the field-tested, proven GoAigua platform can help utilities navigate the crisis.
How is the COVID-19 crisis affecting the US and its water sector?
The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly impacted us all personally and professionally. Right now, I think we are just waiting to see what the “new normal” will be while we navigate through this pandemic – and after it is “over.” We are slowly seeing restrictions lifted across the country, and we are anxiously waiting to see how these changes will impact new COVID-19 cases. I think there is a lot of apprehension and uncertainty at this time.
I have also seen some silver linings – notably, lots of folks are stepping up to help one another out during these difficult times and we are seeing very rapid innovation in some areas. For the water sector in particular, we are seeing a reduction in revenues across the board. We are also seeing utilities make dramatic adjustments to work remotely.
How can technology help navigate the crisis?
As revenues decrease, we are seeing desire increase to adopt technology that will help drive efficiencies and significantly enhance regional operations and water system management capabilities. Platforms like GoAigua’s – that are modular and fully scalable – allow utilities to quickly start on their journey to digital transformation at a pace that makes sense for them, which is very important in this constrained-resource environment. We are also seeing lots of teams work remotely… many for the first time. Technology can absolutely help monitor systems and perform daily operations from home, keeping everyone safe and healthy.
Are there any specific technological solutions that can provide an early diagnosis of COVID-19?
GoAigua has been using our broad proprietary platform to synthesize results of samples of wastewater with data from utility networks – meaning, we can measure the spread of COVID-19 in cities in real time. For the last 2+ years, GoAigua has been working to detect different infectious viruses (NoV GI, NoV GII and HAV) in wastewater.
In March 2020, we began the process to refine this methodology and detect coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) present in sewage water by measuring the amount of the virus’ DNA. Not only have we been able to finetune the methodology to bring testing up to scale in a laboratory, but we have also integrated all the necessary processes and procedures into our GoAigua platform. Today, we are monitoring the virus as it spreads throughout neighborhoods. And since we are integrated with GIS, CIS, and other utility systems, we can serve that information up to our clients in real time.
Is there an increasing awareness of the need for digital transformation?
Yes! We are seeing an incredible amount of interest in solutions like the Digital Twin. Utilities are very interested in performing real-time assessments and modeling scenarios to make solid decisions in an environment that is rapidly changing. I think utilities are also looking to predict behavior and get accurate forecasting based on past performance. Utility leaders have tough decisions to make right now, and getting to digital transformation is helping them make those decisions confidently and with reliable data.
Do you think this crisis will bring changes in management within water utilities?
Absolutely. I believe utilities will have a renewed focus on resiliency. And that can only be achieved by getting all data from all systems working together to deliver actionable information. I think we will continue to see a trend towards working and managing operations remotely. I also think utilities are going to need to start training and developing staff more quickly, and sharing insights/collaborating with other agencies will become more of the norm.