Water trends in DWTPs for 2024: digital transformation and automation

Water treatment plants are undergoing unprecedented digital transformation. In 2024, DWTPs will continue to invest in automated technology-based plant management, streamlining their operations.

First of all, digital transformation helps to centralize and control data management and therefore bring different DWTP processes together under one umbrella. These processes can be optimized using advanced predictive control with algorithmic models that are capable of learning and resolving situations, strengthening the processes and ensuring that operating variables perform at optimum levels on a constant basis.

Centralized management provides many benefits, such as predicting the quality of the collected water, automating coagulant reagent dosing, simulating the properties of stored chemicals, monitoring decanter performance and intelligently sequencing filter backwashing. It also improves energy efficiency by optimizing storage and pumping, and factoring in electricity tariffs and photovoltaic generation, if available.

Digital transformation and water quality

This year, digital transformation will continue to make progress in detecting events occurring in water supply networks, thus enhancing water quality. This includes incidents that take place from the point the water leaves the treatment plant and/or tank to the point of consumption, which may pose a threat to public safety. Thus, automating and monitoring the main water quality variables will guarantee optimum drinking water in terms of cleanliness and health.

In addition, the deployment of new state-of-the-art sensors has revolutionized the ability to measure key variables more accurately, facilitating the implementation of more sophisticated quality control algorithms.

To achieve these goals, it is essential to integrate the DWTP’s different technologies and operations to prevent source and data fragmentation and thus break down information silos in water treatment plants. In essence, digital transformation should not respond to specific needs in isolation. Instead, it should be part of an overall strategic plan. This involves deploying platforms that integrate and analyze data from different sources, and offer centralized, automatic plant control, facilitating decision-making.

water trends in DWTPs

Cybersecurity in DWTPs

It is clear that digital transformation brings many advantages and progress to the water sector, but it also brings risks such as increased exposure to cyber-attacks, which can endanger public health. Utilities are therefore going to spend more time and effort on increasing their cybersecurity in 2024.

Digital transformation must therefore also be geared towards guaranteeing cybersecurity, not only through the implementation of technological solutions, but also by tackling the problem holistically. An effective security policy in utilities is vital to water preservation, as it provides guaranteed access to this scarce yet essential resource. Protecting the data handled by water utilities is equally important, as it contains sensitive user information (personal and financial data) and also includes key business information for utilities’ operations.

Attacks on water utilities include tampering with water purification processes, which can have serious consequences such as possibly poisoning the population. Therefore, having security systems in place to alert of and prevent such attacks is a way of improving plant productivity as it reduces the number of unscheduled shutdowns that have to be made to remedy the incident. Thus, robust online and offline security at utilities will give customers reassurance and enhance their business reputation as a result.

Ultimately, cybersecurity is crucial in the water treatment sector, as water plant and distribution control and management systems are increasingly connected to networks and IT systems. Protecting these systems is essential to prevent potential cyber-attacks that could compromise water quality, operations and public safety.

Accordingly, new trends in integrated water cycle treatment, such as improved management, automation, early warning systems and water reuse, pose major challenges in the short term and inevitably introduce new attack vectors that cybercriminals can exploit. Cyber threats can have serious consequences, such as tampering with treatment processes, information theft, ransomware, industrial espionage and supply disruption. Utilities must therefore implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as network segmentation, multi-factor authentication, real-time intrusion detection, monitoring of variations in daily operations, and ongoing cybersecurity training for staff.

Idrica’s Water Technology Trends 2024 report provides a comprehensive list of trends for the industry, including the digital transformation and automation of DWTPs.

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