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Member Spotlight

Annika Malm, Head of Department of Water & Waste – Kungsbacka kommun

Kungsbacka is a small municipality with 85,000 inhabitants, located south from Gothenburg, Sweden. The water utility is a part of the municipality organisation, with about 100 employees. There is one major waterworks, four wastewater treatment plants, and about 1,700 km in total of water, wastewater, and stormwater pipes.

As a smaller utility (serving 85k inhabitants), what have you seen as the biggest benefit to taking the smart water journey?

For us, gaining the support and directive from municipal management is essential. We have a driving force from the municipal management and our own management to improve the efficiency by digitalisation through an overall municipal strategy. As a small organisation, we have a few key personnel with competence to drive and implement digital solutions. Thus, we need to strengthen our skillset such as with an Enterprise Architect. We also have municipal resources that we can use for help. So far, our strategy has been as a manager to never say no if you can afford to say yes. If we take every chance to say yes even without a proven positive cost-benefit ratio, we will be able to learn by doing. It also makes working with us fun when there is a foresight and a mindset that anything is possible.

How does your relationship with the municipality, academic partners, and other critical stakeholders impact your push towards digitalisation?

We are a small municipality and do not have the opportunity to have all expertise in-house. Thus, we need networks with other municipalities, research institutes, and academia. To fulfil this, we are involved in several projects working as test-sites and data providers for research. In this way, our employees both create their own networks and learn new things that we can then use. In one major project to reconstruct our largest wastewater treatment plant, we are receiving help from the best researchers in the field in Sweden who have access to global networks.

What are your plans to build a wastewater treatment plant of the future incorporating a digital twin?

Our vision is to build a digital twin that operates the plant completely on its own to optimise treatment results and energy use every minute. We must purify water at the right level so that we do not consume too much energy unnecessarily. The digital twin can indicate when we need to maintain the treatment plant’s assets by continuously reading and analysing operation and treatment plant data. When we want to simulate a change, such as increased inflows from a new-built area or that a basin needs to be disconnected for a time, we could do it first in the digital twin to see how it works. Currently this is a vision, we are certainly in the very start of our journey and not there yet. We are now 3D-scanning all parts of the treatment plant and the plan is to use these drawings to construct the digital twin.

What advice do you have for young professionals looking to carve their path in the smart water sector?

Each new generation brings new perspectives and new wisdom. My advice is to listen, learn and then go for it. We need new knowledge that dares to question and does not think that new technology, new software, AI and new interfaces are scary. For those of us who have worked in the industry for a long time, the digital journey feels like climbing a mountain and you can help us find new paths.