Words by Tony Whitehead
“Even a simple digital twin gives you a picture of what is happening underground. You can add more granular detail over time, and the more detail you have, the clearer the picture becomes”
Anna Dahlman Petri, WSP
One of the biggest challenges for anyone working with water is that it is often out of sight underground, whether in a natural aquifer or a city’s supply network. Now, though, new ways of collecting and combining information promise to shed light on what’s really going on.
“Better use of data can help make the invisible visible,” says Anna Dahlman Petri, senior water consultant at WSP in Stockholm. A lack of useable information often means utility companies are in the dark when it comes to understanding their own networks, she says, creating a variety of problems including — notoriously — the vexed issue of leaking pipes and why water utilities do not fix more of them.
“Fixing leaks is difficult and expensive, not least because you might not know exactly where the leak is. And then if you do find it and fix it, the resulting pressure change can often cause another leak to spring up somewhere else in the system.” If a repair is not handled intelligently, says Dahlman Petri, the interruptions to supply, and the cost and inconvenience of digging up roads, simply repeat themselves in an expensive game of whack-a-mole.
THE NEW SHAPE OF WATER
Climate change is altering rainfall patterns, and making both floods and drought more frequent and more extreme. To survive and thrive in the 21st century, we need to rethink our relationship with water and the way we manage this most precious of resources