Careful management of our water supply reduces water stress

ABB Australia Pty Ltd
Thursday, 01 April, 2021



Despite the historic rainfall and floods experienced in Eastern Australia in March, stress on our fresh water supply remains an important topic.

Many of us are fortunate enough to have an abundant supply of fresh drinking water when we turn on a tap. The significant role water plays, and the work that has gone into ensuring that supply is easy to take for granted. But in recent years, weather patterns and rainfall are becoming less predictable. Our blue planet is two-thirds covered in water, yet just 3% of that water is fresh water and available for drinking and for growing food.

Water stress

The importance of conserving the water supply is highlighted by the significant impact that a dry or wet season can have on agricultural activities. A staggering 70% of water use worldwide is for agricultural irrigation1. The World Resources Institute (WRI) defines water stress as being extremely high where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities draw more than 80% of the available supply every year2. It reports that twelve of the 17 most water-stressed countries in the world are in the Middle East and North Africa. Areas of India also have high water stress and the country is taking critical steps to mitigate that stress to ensure close management of this life-giving resource. Measures include management of supply for irrigation as well as placing strict regulations for conserving and restoring lakes and groundwater sources.

Other countries with areas of high-water stress include South Western Australia, South Africa and some areas of the United States. In managing water resources there are three key things that municipalities and water authorities can do: increasing agricultural efficiency by using measured and precise watering for crops, reducing loss in the distribution network, and recycling our wastewater.

Managing supply

To meet the demands of agriculture in Australia, AquaMaster flowmeters are now a standard item of equipment used throughout irrigation networks to effectively measure and control the flow of water for crops and livestock. Flowmeters are used to ensure users adhere to allocations of water when supply is limited as well as reducing leakage from the distribution network. NMI certification helps satisfy authorities that regulatory demands of measurement accuracy are met.

Similarly, in India regulatory management of the water supply has been put in place to help meet the various demands of industry as well as the population. In the megacity Surat, centre of the country’s multi-billion-dollar textile industry, the industry crucially requires more than 340 million litres of water every day across the 1000 textile mills in the city. To help tackle water scarcity and ensure there is enough water to support the industry and its citizens, the city authorities are using flowmeters to track exactly how much water is being consumed by each business. All the data is collated digitally and sent wirelessly to a control centre at city hall. The data will allow Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) to track water usage and optimise water management.

Reducing leakage

According to estimates from the World Bank, a staggering 45 million cubic metres a day is estimated to be lost globally through leakage: an enormous quantity that must be replaced, treated, and pumped again, to maintain supplies to customers. Eliminating leakage is therefore vital.

ABB’s end-to-end digital solutions are helping the local water authority in Karnataka, rural India, to track, measure and optimise water use. The population of the Koppal district is 1 million and faces regular water shortages. The challenge in Koppal was to accurately measure water flow and use digital technology to integrate measurement and track water usage, and also leakage. The ability of AquaMaster to detect even very small variations in flow has been crucial in combating the water shortage challenges in the Koppal district.

In the Middle East where water stress is most pronounced, use of ABB AquaMaster flowmeters have helped cut leaks in the distribution network of Riyadh by 40%. The sprawling city of Riyadh stretches over an area five times the size of Paris. In the past, up to 60% of the city’s water supply disappeared through leakage in the 10,000 km of pipe that supplies the population. OIML certification ensures that high accuracy standards are met. When combining this with low maintenance and reliability of the WaterMaster and AquaMaster flowmeters, ABB has played a prominent part in detecting leaks in the network.

Recycling wastewater

Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world. Treating and reusing water creates a new water source, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), and may hold the key to alleviating severe water stress. Aside from the water reuse there are other byproducts of recycling wastewater.

Glenelg wastewater treatment plant in southwest Adelaide delivers 3.8 billion litres of reused water for recreation and commercial purposes every year. In order to achieve this, it uses the most reliable and accurate measurement instruments to ensure that water is safe to be discharged back into the environment. ABB’s AWT440 transmitter and ADS430 dissolved oxygen devices are successfully working at the plant, reducing air consumption and increasing plant efficiency.

Singapore's water comes from four sources that include reservoir water, imported water from Malaysia, ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water (branded NEWater in Singapore) and desalinated water. ABB have been commissioned to design, engineer, manufacture, install and commission the complete plant electrification, instrumentation and water analysers. As a dual-mode facility, the Marina East Desalination Plant will be able to treat either fresh water or sea water, depending on wet or dry weather conditions, thus reducing plant energy usage when freshwater is abundant.

Future growth

Digital measurement technology is helping water companies around the world to sustain the growth in demand and an increasingly unpredictable supply of water. Finding a route to satisfy the growing demand for water is arguably only achievable through maximising efficiency of our water treatment. Happily, a byproduct of doing so is also minimising the environmental impact of water treatment and distribution. Advanced digital instruments and analysis is helping water utilities to meet the needs and expectations of a growing population.

References
  1. OECD, Managing water sustainably is key to the future of food and agriculture, <<https://www.oecd.org/agriculture/topics/water-and-agriculture>>
  2. Hofste RW and Schleifer L 2019, 17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World's Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress, World Resources Institute, <<https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/08/17-countries-home-one-quarter-world-population-face-extremely-high-water-stress>>

Image: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Chinnapong

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