Sustainable smart cities need reliable water

Tue, 2016-09-06 15:30 -- SCC Partner

As city populations grow, their electricity and water providers need to expand services to keep pace with demand. It's not easy when utilities are expected to do grow, but don't have a bigger budget to work with. Our guest authors from Council Lead Partner CH2M share their expertise on how water and wastewater utilities can extract far more useful information from data they already have, increase operational efficiency and open the lines of communications between departments.

And this is the perfect time to remind you about Smart Cities Week which will be held September 27-29 in Washington, D.C. The conference offers a full slate of programs, networking opportunities and free workshops designed to help cities large and small meet their smart city goals. How Smart Water is Helping Cities Meet Sustainability Goals is just one example of an interactive conference discussion where participants will come away with expert guidance on how to leverage sensor data in smart water networks. Time's getting short so you'll want to register today. — Jesse Berst

By Kenneth Thompson and Raja Kadiyala, CH2M

The creation of a smart city can be accomplished through the integration of new technologies (smart lighting, mesh networking, distributed sensing), enhancing the way existing and new datasets are managed (smart parking, wet weather management), and improving internal and external communications (dashboards and customer portals).

One critical area often overlooked is the water and wastewater system. This is primarily because utilities across the nation do a stellar job providing these services with few interruptions.

Water and wastewater systems are undergoing the same transformation as other city services — becoming smarter and taking advantage of the Internet of Things technology revolution. The goal is to provide the balance between three primary objectives: quality, quantity, and cost (energy). With the decrease in available funding, stricter regulatory compliance requirements and other factors (such as workforce, climate change and security), the use of technology and advanced analytical platforms provide the tools to meet these new challenges.

Discussions with the chief information officers in the 50 largest water utilities during the 2015 CIO Forum revealed that utilities utilize about 10% of the data they collect. Lack of staff and data-processing tools are significant constraints, leading to a large amount of “dark data” to remain unprocessed. There is a tremendous amount of value that can be captured through processing the dark data without implementing new technology. By transforming the data to information, utilities can gain knowledge and insight. The basis for a smart system is developing the toolset for processing large datasets. Creating the mechanism to process dark data provides the basic foundation for the smart system that can be expanded in the future to solve the utility’s most pressing problems.

So why implement a smart system? Some reasons include the following:

  • The traditional approach to data processing and need to have information for internal operations or customers is no longer adequate.
  • Available capital and operational funding is shrinking and utilities need to become more efficient and more informed when making business decisions.
  • Utilities need to improve communication across departments and break down the traditional silos.

Utilities should ask themselves why they aren’t doing this now and how can they get started down the smart water pathway.

The exciting news is that the Smart Cities Council recognizes the importance of water for sustainable smart cities. In 2016, the Council is creating a Water Committee that will have a kickoff meeting during the 2016 Smart Cities Week. Additionally, it has been collaborating with the Smart Water Network Forum (SWAN; to promote smart water systems in cities across the world. In fact, a number of SCC partners (including Qualcomm, Schneider Electric and CH2M) are also members of SWAN and have been engaged in this effort for years. During the Smart Cities Week, SWAN will be moderating a session on smart water and wastewater systems... which you won't want to miss.

Mr. Kenneth Thompson, Deputy Director Intelligent Water Solutions and Senior Technology Fellow, Water Business Group, CH2M, brings over 35 years of experience in the design and operations of smart technologies and data analysis for the water industry. Mr. Thompson served as the project manager and senior consultant for over $60M of work in the design, implementation, and evaluation of Surveillance and Response Systems for New York City, Dallas Water Utilities, Philadelphia Water Department, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. He serves as the President of the Smart Water Network Council and is the CH2M liaison for the Smart Cities Council. Dr. Kadiyala is serving as a Senior Technology Fellow and Global Service Team Leader of Intelligent Water Solutions for CH2M. In this role, he provides oversight to SCADA, IT systems, smart grid and Integrated security solutions for water and wastewater clients.  Over his 22-year career at CH2M, Dr. Kadiyala has worked worldwide to implement real-time sensing, control and analytics for operational optimization and has developed advanced visualization solutions to provide insight into the overwhelming amount of data within the utility space.