Por: Hila Cohen Mizrav*
As the world becomes more digital, an increasing number of water and sanitation companies are incorporating digital technologies into their daily operations. The Source of Innovation alliance – a joint effort of the IDB Group co-funded by the Government of Switzerland through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), FEMSA Foundation and the Government of Israel – financed pilots to implement innovative digital technologies and support water utilities in the region.
At the end of April 2022, the IDB held a webinar “Digital Water: Lessons from Technological Pilots in Latin America and the Caribbean” to present the lessons learned from four water and sanitation technology pilots. Representatives from AySA (Argentina), SEDAPAL (Lima), EPS Grau S.A. (Peru), Companhia de Águas de Joinville (Brazil), IOSight, TaKadu, Asterra and Idrica shared the successes and challenges they faced in their implementation processes.
The webinar illustrated the multifaceted uses of digital technologies, which include observing watersheds to enable informed decision-making, tracking project impact, and monitoring water quality and quantity, land use and restoration, and early warning for flooding. Globally, a growing number of water utilities use remote sensing, smart sensors, modeling, and event detection software to identify water leakages, pressure related problems, and monitoring the real time status of their systems.
Several key concepts were presented during the webinar:
- Data transfer preparation is important. Often, digital technologies require data to be transferred to the technology company’s own cloud to analyze it via algorithms, AI or other forms of advanced analysis. In a few cases, water utilities face technical problems such as inability to extract and receive data, lack of real time data, and difficulties uploading it to the cloud. Therefore, utilities should prepare all the necessary data, tackle technology issues, and involve their IT department in the initial stages of the process.
- Operationalize the technologies. In an effort to implement new technologies, some utilities try to adopt technologies without the buy-in from their operational teams. If the operational teams are not involved from the start, they might not prioritize the technology or facilitate implementation. Hence, a high-level executive in charge of operation should be nominated to oversee execution. This champion should understand the advantages of the technology, see its potential and foster adoption on an operational level.
- Build capacity. The ability of the operational team to adopt the technology requires continuous capacity building throughout its implementation. Creating a behavioral change in the workplace is not easy and requires will power and effort.
- In Buenos Aires, AySA used Asterra’s satellite technology to detect leakages. In a pilot area of over 5,000 km of pipes, 1,105 points with high potential for leaks were detected, generating savings of 2,000,000 m3 of water per year and increasing efficiency in leak detection by 138%.
- In Lima, SEDAPAL implemented TaKadu’s Event Management system to identify and anticipate 7,000 leak events, allowing savings of USD 861,000 in one year of pilot testing.
Two pilots in Argentina and Peru showcase the significant benefits for water and sanitation utilities across the region.
The IDB will continue to promote new technologies that improve the quality of life in the region, foment innovation, bridge knowledge gaps, and create new sources of innovation throughout the region
*Hila Cohen Mizrav is a consultant and coordinates the IDB-Israel collaboration: Enhancing Capacity in Water Resources Technologies. Previously, she worked at the World Bank on water management, irrigation and upgrading of water utilities in Africa. He has over 10 years of experience in the environmental sector and holds a master’s degree in environmental policy and international relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.