[Blog] Harnessing the Power of Water Data

More frequent capture of water supply and distribution data is becoming a must-have for utilities as they strive to build network resilience, improve customer experience and meet regulatory expectations. Ovarro’s Matthew Hawkridge shares key his takeaways for utilities.

Data technology is advancing rapidly

Datalogging allows water companies to accurately and reliably record parameters for pressure, flow and level across water supply and distribution networks by interfacing with common industry flow meters and sensors. 

Technology around sensors, communications and battery life is advancing rapidly and with more data comes increased insight and ultimately increased value. Visibility of DMAs combined with network models, pressure surveys, consumer flow monitoring and reservoir depth calculations all mean water companies are increasingly able to make informed decisions, quickly. 

There are challenges, however, including the increasing pressure on data security, a growing need for more battery power to send more data for longer periods and communications reliability. These are always front of mind for Ovarro when developing and updating its dataloggers. 

Ovarro’s dataloggers can now communicate with multiple different sensors from one device using the internet of things (IoT). They are programmed wirelessly using a bluetooth app and data is sent securely to the cloud or the customer’s system. 

IoT is a gamechanger 

The rollout of 4G and IoT networks has significantly improved communications. Ovarro has recently (in 2021) updated the XiLog advanced datalogger following an intensive period of research and development. The latest version comes with 4G or NBIoT/CATM1 and bluetooth as standard, with fifth generation 5G broadband connectivity in the future. 

IoT has been a real gamechanger in reducing power consumption and allowing loggers to send data more frequently. Battery technology has also progressed, allowing Ovarro’s loggers to deliver as much as a10-year battery life. This means fewer battery changes and site visits, which reduces environmental impact, while freeing up time and saving costs. 

There have been advances made in the reliability and frequency of data capture. Historically, dataloggers would capture data in a set schedule, say one datapoint every 30 minutes, then relay it once a day. This means that if the signal is interrupted for any reason, a whole day's data is lost. The logger would then try to send it the next day. In theory, the data could still be extracted, but it could be days later. 

From an operations point of view, receiving the data as close to real-time means that personnel can act quickly to changes and irregularities Where data is delayed or lost, severe pressure changes in the water network might be missed or not acted on until days later. 

We are seeing now that water companies want data sent every 15 minutes or 30 minutes – thankfully, the improvements in battery power means this is now possible. 

Data helps meet carbon goals 

More streamlined management of water networks leads to resilient and reliable supplies - a win-win for both customers and the environment. 

On the regulatory side, an efficient network means fewer bursts, supply interruptions and leaks.

Maintaining operational control over these critical areas will also play a part in utilities achieving net zero carbon goals. If the amount of water lost through leakage is reduced, the volume of water being treated and put into supply is also reduced, cutting energy consumption and carbon emissions in the process. 

Keep up by collaborating with suppliers 

Right now, water companies should be strongly considering investing in technology primed to integrate with next-generation monitoring systems, featuring reliable and efficient communications, advanced analytics and AI capabilities, including machine-learning. Crucially systems also need to be secure in every way - from hardware to cloud. 

The current trend is clear, the market is moving in a direction that enables water companies to receive more and more data. Now, more than ever, the question is about getting the most value out of that data and having the right processes and systems in place. We know that with more data comes more potential insight, but the true value comes when that data is efficiently visualised and analysed. 

The data and analytics landscape is complex and fast-moving but will transform how water networks are managed globally. Utilities can ensure they are not left behind by working collaboratively with their suppliers.