Kansas water plants are receiving more than $66 million to manage lead pipes and improve drinking water for its communities.
Combating Aging Infrastructure: How Technology Prolongs Our Water Systems
Aging water infrastructure in the United States not only wastes water, it also poses a risk to public health. Technology is revolutionizing the way we address it.
When you turn on your faucet to grab a drink of water or turn on your shower at the end of a long day, you probably expect that water to flow out right away. And not only do you expect the water to appear immediately, you also want it to be clean.
But what most people fail to think about when they turn on the water in their home is the complex system of pipes, pumps, and storage that bring that water to our homes, schools, hospitals, and other public places. And most also don’t realize that drinking water infrastructure is aging.
Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure is composed of 2.2 million miles of pipes. Unfortunately, most of those systems are nearing the end of their lives. And it shows. According to the most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, there’s a water main break every two minutes in the United States. That leads to an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water that is wasted every single day.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 14 percent of water produced by a water system is lost to leaks in the distribution system. The organization claims some systems have water loss rates that exceed 60 percent! Not only does that mean lost revenue for the utility company, it also means wasted water and energy from the treatment of those gallons, and the loss of water in general when scarcity is a growing concern.
In addition to water loss, aging infrastructure also poses a threat to public health. The deteriorating pipes can lead to contaminant leakage, waterborne diseases, reduced water quality, and system failures. Texans saw a prime example of this when a winter storm in 2021 left thousands of Texans without clean water.
Since the majority of America’s water infrastructure system is buried underground and not visible to the public, these lifelines go unnoticed until there’s a problem. Until recently, the consequences of that lack of attention have led to the critical infrastructure not receiving the funding it deserves for replacements, repairs, or upgrades.
However, billions of dollars of funding have recently been allocated to repairing, replacing, and enhancing our nation’s water infrastructure. It’s evident that swift action is necessary to not only protect public health, but also conserve our world’s most precious- and limited- resource. Fortunately, advancements in technology offer promising solutions for both new and existing infrastructure to ensure this issue does not present itself again anytime soon. Here are several ways incorporating technology, including smart meters and SCADA systems, into existing infrastructure can help prevent and combat aging infrastructure and the issues associated:
Advanced sensors and monitoring systems can help utility workers detect leaks long before they become major problems. Where does water pressure drastically decrease? What tank levels are too high?
In addition, most smart technologies for municipalities- specifically in SCADA systems- have remote control capabilities as well. This allows operators to not only detect leaks when they start, but quickly shut off water flowing to it, thus saving both significant damage to infrastructure and water quality and cost.
Smart technology, such as smart meters, can help municipalities monitor and manage water usage more effectively, allowing them to identify and address inefficiencies and reduce water loss. These sensors can also alert users to incorrect chemical balances, which could lead to corrosion and water loss if not addressed.
The smart infrastructure listed above gives operators the ability to analyze and manage data from those components, which can help maintain and optimize their plant’s overall health. Even if the remote monitoring component doesn’t alert operators to a leak, instant access to data retrieved from flow meters and sensors gives operators the opportunity to see problems like leaks, overflows, and chemical imbalances.
Access to historical data allows users to see where water is being wasted, what components of the infrastructure are being overworked, and investigate any incidents that could diminish the life of the infrastructure.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation now ranks cybercrime as one of its most important law enforcement activities. Unfortunately, our public water systems are not immune to the growing concern of cybersecurity.
Obvious consequences include increased downtime, monetary loss, data breaches, safety hazards, and damage to equipment. Implementing secure technology into your water and wastewater systems cannot only deter cybersecurity breaches, but many will alert operators if something looks suspicious. Some platforms also have alarm management systems integrated that will alert operators and allow for emergency responses and automatic shutdowns if a bad actor is detected.
According to Business Insider, the water industry has been slow to embrace the technology revolution that has benefited and optimized so many other industries. However, steps are being taken to address the growing concern of our aging infrastructure and how technology can play a part in combating it.
Our goal here at SitePro is to help water operators more efficiently manage and conserve water, and provide safe drinking water to communities. Our remote monitoring and control capabilities alerts users to any potential leaks and allows them to address them right then and there, even if they’re not on site.
Access to both historical and real-time data allows operators to make changes that will ultimately save time and money, improve water quality, and prolong the life of their infrastructure. Not to mention, it makes regulatory reporting a breeze.
And our award-winning security protects your infrastructure from attack.
By embracing these technological advancements, we can proactively address the risks associated with aging infrastructure, enhancing the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of our water systems. We would love to have a quick conversation about partnering with your water operations to prolong the life of your critical infrastructure, and ensure the safety of your water for your people.