Mahesh Lunani, Founder & CEO – Aquasight
The Aquasight solution taps into 100’s of sensors already installed in the water and wastewater network and provides real-time efficient pumping energy management, resident leak detection, water loss auditing and accounting, future water quality predictions, determining infiltration and inflows in the sewer collection network, forecasting incoming flows and wastewater characteristics, identifying real-time recipe to treat wastewater, conducting sewage surveillance to provide early warning and neighbourhood hotspots for infectious diseases (e.g. COVID-19) and finally real-time asset health monitoring and warning.
How can water utilities tap into their existing resources to empower their workforce and achieve operational efficiency?
Water is a stressed sector. Different parts of the world face different challenges and hence solutions may vary. There is, however, one underlying commonality, that utilities want to do more with less by figuring out how to tap into existing resources and maximise their use. This area is precisely our focus by tapping into internal or external data resources, often in real-time, to empower the workforce and achieve efficiency (i.e., by reducing rates) and minimise risks (i.e., creating a clean environment). This helps the utility workforce efficiently run their operations, use less energy, chemicals and manpower, act on anomalies, and set up predictive maintenance by leveraging the very data that they already generate. Our algorithms and technology are smart enough to handle any level of complexity and variations of utilities. The shared platform we have across utilities ensures that the value utilities generate over time increases disproportionately.
Aquasight uses Artificial Intelligence to integrate datasets. What are the main benefits a utility should expect when merging datasets?
We are able to combine data from collection system pump stations and sewer shed flows with ocean levels and rain to estimate real-time I&I. We can compare the data against previous datasets to track improvements over time, but also to understand the sewer shed behaviours in real-time. To identify water loss, we merge real-time supply and consumption meters to detect leaks in residential homes. In the case of sewage surveillance, we are able to intelligently merge lab data on COVID-19 with sewer shed flows, travel time, temperature, and the population to estimate minimum peak shedders and provide early warning of one week in advance on the spread of COVID-19. These are some of the solutions Aquasight deployed and implemented that customers are using successfully.
What are some unique water challenges Aquasight discovered about US utilities and what do you think US utilities should learn from the global water sector?
Within the US, water challenges are both regional and nationwide. Challenges include declining revenues in the rust belt, ageing infrastructure in the Northeast, water quality issues in South, water shortages on the West Coast, fragmentation of utilities and the cost of water. It is extremely difficult to transplant from other countries- policy or structure or pricing solutions since they are driven by local politics. However, the supply chain is global, so one can adopt and pick-up point solutions, such as treatment, or desalination or smart water systems or sensor technology. I believe that is where the opportunities exist.
Young professionals are growing up in the digital age, but the water and wastewater sectors don’t always stand out as obvious career choices. How can we engage more young professionals to join the water workforce?
I talk about this with my guests in the 21st Century Water podcast. The water sector does not rank among the top sectors that college graduates want to work for (unless of course, you are an environmental or civil engineer). We need to improve the skill mix of people who are joining the sector. It will be impossible to innovate if everyone thinks the same way or is cut from the same cloth. The key to attracting this new skill mix is to understand why the sector is not attractive. Is it because it is a public sector? Is it a willingness to change careers or the trajectory of change? Is it salaries and compensation? Is it a career path and growth? We need to understand the reasons so we can plan for the changing workforce. With that said, I can tell you that utility CEOs are thinking about this and are coming up with their own programs in their local communities. I have spent time in other industries and think more can be done in the water sector. It is a whitespace and an opportunity.