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Leveraging on AI to Transform and Improve Water Management Systems
October 7, 2019 News


The National Water Services Commission (SPAN) acts as a watchdog in ensuring all the different water provider companies meet the need requirements when it comes to quality of water and maintenance.

At the same time, SPAN is also looking at ways in which they can ensure the supply of water is consistent and able to monitor pipelines for faults and repair them with minimal impact to the supply. In a move to conserve water in Malaysia, they are also pushing for rainwater harvesting to meet the growing demand for water, especially during drought seasons.

In order to achieve this, SPAN believes water companies need to digitally transform their infrastructure, so they are able to meet the demands of the industry. A lot of these companies have ageing infrastructure and rising urbanisation to deal with.

According to Datuk Lim Chow Hock, commission member of SPAN, the biggest challenges faced by water companies come from operational issues. With non-revenue water sitting at 35%, a lot of companies are facing losses. Water consumption per capita is high, but the reserve margin of water is low at an average of 8% of the water in dams and 10% for treated water. The increasing number of breakdowns and long period repairs have also led to high operational costs.

SPAN is now looking to implement an approach to ensure water is safe and adequate for all. This includes digital transformation and the application of IoT in their water infrastructure. By installing sensors on the pipelines around the country, water companies will be able to have real-time data on the flow of water and check the pressure and quality of water (checking ammonia content for example).

Leakages and burst pipes are a common factor why water cuts happen. With IoT sensors placed in strategic locations, water companies will be able to monitor the flow system and have immediate reports on any leakages or faulty pipes. They will be able to deploy the maintenance team to fix these problems at a much faster pace, and without the risks of manual intervention.

The implementation of digital initiatives in the water industry will see improved job management system, the establishment of a digital command centre for operation, maintenance and customer service, a remote monitoring system for asset management and hydraulic modelling to monitor flow and pressure. There also plans to improve the billing and collection system as well as a project management system.

Lim added that some of these implementations have taken place and water companies are already seeing improvements in their services. There have been signs of improvement on non-revenue water ie. water that doesn’t reach its target due to leakages, rechanneling, etc., a reduction in repair and maintenance time, higher productivity, cost-effectiveness and improvement in customers’ satisfaction.

“Technology will be used to improve the production and distribution of the entire water management system. Some states are already using AI technology that be able to predict and detect faults in the pipeline and notify us. This allows us to be more efficient in dealing with the problem.”

Moving forward, SPAN hopes to implement a smart metering system and an integrated geospatial system for data. Most importantly, they want to be able to improve the reduction of non-revenue water, and the best way to do that is by improving and transforming their infrastructure.