Digitising our water infrastructure – a surefire solution


New York City, US recently played host to the UN’s first Water Conference in over 50 years. And whilst over 700 pledges were made to promote transformation in the water sector, the challenges – to achieve these goals – are undoubtedly immense.

Evident from the conference was that water sectors in many countries, including South Africa face many challenges: aging infrastructure, the impact of climate change, environmental degradation, the growing demand for water, and outdated water management solutions and strategies.

However, and this is indeed good news, the digital transition of the water sector can play a key role in accelerating progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6; clean water and sanitation for all whilst proactively addressing the many of the abovementioned challenges.

Digital transformation provides visibility into water supply and demand patterns, identifying water usage inefficiencies and opportunities usage whilst reducing water losses, promoting water reuse and circular economy principles at every scale.  This al contributes to the development of an effective water management strategy.

That said, to realise digitisation, investment will have to be made.  Upgrading outdated water systems to digital technology requires investment in sensors, monitoring equipment, and other tools to detect leaks and improve water efficiency.

Also, building technical expertise and engaging policymakers and regulators are important to support the adoption of digital solutions in the water sector.  It is truly a team effort to build a water-secure future,

Deploying digital solutions

With the advent of IIoT, a layer of intelligence – through the deployment of sensors and other monitoring equipment – can be added to every device in a water treatment and distribution system. Then, by combining telemetry and cloud-based analytics with IIOT, water and wastewater (WWW) plants can proactively conserve water whilst taking steps to positively impact the environment and financial sustainability.

Digital transformation offers the following important benefits:

  • Real-time state of systems and processes – with digital tools, water professionals can access real-time information about the state of their systems and processes. This immediate insight allows for quicker decision-making and issue resolution.
  • Diagnosis and prediction. Predictive analytics help utilities anticipate and prevent slowdowns and malfunctions, reducing downtime and maintenance costs.
  • Workflow and resource optimisation: By analysing data, utilities can optimise workflows and resource allocation, ensuring that operations run efficiently.
  • Energy efficiency – digital systems enable utilities to fine-tune energy usage based on functional characteristics, reducing energy costs and environmental impact.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Automation Expert architecture provides WWW plants with complete lifecycle management, seamless IT and OT integration, and improved automation system diagnostics. Importantly, it decouples software from hardware, allowing for quick modifications or upgrades.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert adheres to the IEC 61499 standard for interoperability, making it adaptable to specific customer needs, regardless of existing automation solutions. This flexibility empowers water companies to modernise their operations cost-effectively, without being tied to proprietary hardware.

Peter Marumong, Cluster WWW Segment Leader
Johan Potgieter, Cluster Industrial Software Lead at Schneider Electric