During Idrica Water Security Day Middle East, one of the most relevant worldwide military experts, Dr. David Kilcullen, dialogued with Jaime Barba CEO Idrica about water and conflict in a post COVID-19 Middle East.
The event took place on the 4th of May and was moderated by Sarmad Qazi, one of the main communication experts of the Persian Gulf. We share in this article Mr. Barba’s answers to the participants’ questions. The water technology expert discussed about «Technology and water security in a crisis context».
Q. What are the main recommendations you would give to a water utility in its digital transformation process?
It is vital that leaders in the organization are willing to change the processes and that evangelizers are supported within the company. It is also necessary to have the technology in place and to select an experienced company in digital transformation for the water industry, which can advise you throughout the process. Finally, it is essential to validate the experience of that company and to train the people who are resistant to change.
Q. How feasible is it to take this technology to overcrowded places with a very old infrastructure? How can modern water technology work in very poor / rural areas, where electric power supply is not available 24/7?
The first step to monitoring is to deploy devices in water tanks, valves and pumps. Then it is easy to deploy almost anything. It is also necessary to change processes. The use of technology, together with the implementation of best practices, can transform processes such as billing or work order management. When there is no energy available 24/7, monitoring results are poorer, but they still improve efficiency.
Q. Given the growing tide of nationalism and the emergence of populist leaders around the world, how big a threat do these movements pose to global water security? How can multilateral organizations mitigate the risk?
Multilateral organizations can mitigate the risk by investing in monitoring transparency and efficiency. It is the only way to control inefficient management.
Q. Among the main water challenges and considering the current pandemic, which ones should be addressed by governments first?
All states should be monitoring the presence of genetic units of coronavirus in sewage water. This would allow them to have an early warning system for COVID-19.
Q. How can we use technology to prevent conflicts and protect infrastructure?
The infrastructure, reservoirs and water networks in Mexico suffer vandalism every day. During the pandemic in Mexico City, the National Guard is protecting the trucks that deliver water to prevent theft. By monitoring the network and workforce, we can understand the impact of vandalism acts and the state of the service, so we can prioritize our resources quickly.
Q. Due to cybersecurity risks, certain countries might choose not to have transparent information and advanced technologies that could be vulnerable… How does Idrica deal with such situations? How does risk compare to benefits?
Cybersecurity requires a 24/7 monitoring. Not implementing the technology is not a good decision. It is like deciding not to have a house because there is a risk of being stolen. We need doors, alarms, and protection, but we also need a house. We need technology with a good protection and surveillance.
Q. What is the perspective for water in Latin America, in relation to the COVID-19 crisis?
We need to monitor the sewage networks to alert citizens of the presence of the coronavirus. We can do that 10 days in advance, and it should be mandatory.
Q. I would like to know about your experience in Qatar and how Idrica can contribute to improving water efficiency.
We are managing important contracts in sewage network and facilities in Qatar. We expect to deploy the complete range of our technology to be efficient, and resilient.
Q. Which recommendations could you give to governments, to deal with and prevent, if possible, this type of problems?
There is an underlying conflict related to the Treaty of Limits and water between Mexico and the US. We must deliver water to the US in October 2020, but farmers do not want to open the dams in Mexico, and maybe we cannot deliver on time, because there is a big drought. My recommendation is to be transparent. This is difficult; however, technology helps. If we monitor both sides of the infrastructure, the situation can improve.
Q. Thanks for presenting on the use of technology and the digital world to actively manage utilities and keep consumers informed. With the exposure to the current pandemic, which customized solutions can support unprecedented situations? I understand that Idrica might have smart technologies for the pre-COVID-19 world, but is this the same suite of solutions for the post-COVID-19 world?
That is a good question. We are using our workforce management system to control the samples in sewage water, our GIS integration with laboratory LIMs systems, APPs to manage the results of the samples, and data science to analyze trends and neighborhoods behavior. Those are the same technologies that we used before COVID-19 to make drinking water quality transparent for citizens. Now we are doing the same with a laboratory, where we find the amount of genetical virus units in sewage water. We have developed an early warning system for the detection of COVID-19 in wastewater. The previous deployment of technology in the company made this possible, so now we are ready for this new situation.
About the event
Idrica Water Security Day Middle East is the second in the series of online dialogues organized by Idrica, a company that offers services and technological solutions for the management of the entire water cycle. The company provides a unique differential value based on its experience and knowledge of the sector. Its technological solution GoAigua, developed over the last 10 years, is used by 400+ water utilities globally to transform utilities into smarter, more proactive and more resilient entities.