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Digital twins and treating wastewater

Water issues need to be addressed holistically, says Thomas D Krom. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

During a roundtable session by Bentley Systems, Technical Review Middle East caught up with the company’s segment director for Environment at Seequent, Thomas D Krom. An interesting conversation about wastewater took place, where Krom explained the challenges of the water industry. Read on:

What is the biggest challenge in treating wastewater?

Thomas Krom: One of the biggest challenges is people’s perception of it. For example in Singapore, ‘NEWater’ is the brand name given to highly treated reclaimed wastewater produced by Singapore's Public Utilities Board.

They actually take this NEWater, and discharge it into a lake before they use it again. Similarly in Los Angeles, the water replenishment District of Southern California takes the treated water and injects it into their aquifers before they use it directly.

And it is that question of changing people's perceptions of how to use this water. That's one big challenge. The other challenge is there are a number of jurisdictions where it is actually prohibited to use that water for anything other than environmental flows.

[Having the water go back into the aquifer] can be a good practice. It's certainly better than sticking in the Pacific Ocean. But the point is that some places do it because it's a good management practice. They also do it simply because it improves people's perceptions, because they don't think of it as waste anymore, as sewage.

How can digital twins help in changing perceptions?

Thomas Krom: All of this exacerbates the challenges around managing the water. For example, in Catalonia in Spain, they're using our technologies to enhance water recharge using wastewater in a coastal environment.

And their biggest challenge actually was convincing people that this was safe. And with digital twin technology, such as of the subsurface, they could show people how the water comes in, how it goes to the ground and everything else. So above and beyond the operational and planning channel advantages they've got from using the digital type twin solution with a holistic, where they brought in all different kinds of data.

The modelling was more efficient and the operation was more efficient. Digital twins help people see the changes they can make, and can interact with it. An  example is our leapfrog product, where it increases their efficiency by a great degree.

[Our clients] have reported that it reduced the amount of effort for a project by 70% in some cases, and the average is in the mid 50s.

We need to address all these climate change challenges around water and mineral resources and energy. We need to think of them as one problem that needs to be solved holistically.