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Improving water infrastructure in the Middle East

Slavco Velickov, global asset performance director at Bentley Systems. (Image source: Bentley Systems)

Slavco Velickov, global asset performance director at Bentley Systems, speaks to Technical Review Middle East about smart water grids in the Middle East

Technical Review Middle East (TRME): To protect water resources, what infrastructure technology can the government invest in?

Slavco Velickov (SV):  There is significant room for improving the efficiency of water and wastewater infrastructure using technology. For example, we can reduce non-revenue water and physical water loss from 10 to 20%, improve efficiency in planning, designing, building, and operating and maintaining infrastructure, increase pumping and water/wastewater treatment energy savings by 10%, and do a better job of demand forecasting and matching the demand with the supply. 

Reducing risks of sewer overflows and flooding of the sewer and stormwater infrastructure and damages to properties, businesses, and preventing loss of live are other important issues to be addressed. Therefore, implementing “smart water and wastewater networks” using appropriate technologies could potentially save 25% of the total costs of ownership resulting in billions of dollars in savings. For consumers the net result will be a higher guarantee of service with appropriate tariffs. For the service provider it can mean at least a 5% reduction in energy and operating costs.

TRME: How does Bentley help clients in the fields of smart water grids and smart metering? 

SV: Bentley offers a smart water technology in the form of operational digital twin for the water system. The digital twin can help water utilities to simplify operations and overcome the complexity of siloed systems by integrating and analysing disparate data sources―SCADA and smart water meters, Internet of Things (IoT), GIS, hydraulic modelling, client information, and historical data―into an evergreen digital twin – a virtual replica of the physical world. The result is an effective and efficient operations strategy that prioritises interventions, aids long-term capital planning decision, decreases risk, and ensures the delivery of safe, reliable water supply to customers. 

TRME: Are there any advancements in desalination technology?

SV: Traditionally reverse osmosis has been the most commonly used process in the industry, however recent advances in desalination technology includes more efficient processes, such the battery electrode deionisation (BDI) system. This process also uses renewable energy to improve desalination process efficiency for more than 30%. 

Saudi Arabia's National Water Company (NWC) has revealed that it has launched work on 12 major desalination projects using novel technology valued at over US$1.3bn across strategic zones encompassing Dammam, Al Khobar, Jubail, Al Ahsa, and Qatif. By implementing digital twins of the desalination treatment plants (such as Bentley’s PlantSight powered by iTwin Experience and coupled with Asset Reliability) one can improve real-time monitoring and operation by additional 20% throughout the life cycle of these asset-intensive and energy-hungry plant facilities.

TRME: What is the future of the UAE's water infrastructure? 

SV: The future of the UAE’s water infrastructure is bright. There are of course many challenges, which can be overcome by leveraging innovations and technology solutions. 

Limited water resources and increased water scarcity due to aridity, population growth, climate change, urbanisation, and irrigation demands

ii. inefficient water use in the agriculture and municipal sectors (high per capita water use, high rates of water losses)

iii. A large disparity between the increased demand and the available supply

iv. Deteriorating quality of water services in large cities due to urbanisation growth

v. Rapid depletion of groundwater quantity and quality due to their over-exploitation, with multiple impacts on municipal water supply, agricultural productivity, and ecosystems

vi. A lack of optimal operating sewer collections and treatment systems, and stormwater conveyance systems

vii. An increased need for institutional and individual capacity building to efficiently use technologies and solutions.

Bentley Systems as a technology provider will play an important role in addressing these challenges in the GCCs water industry by accelerating project delivery and improving asset performance for the water and wastewater infrastructure that sustains the economy and the environment with the main aim of improving the quality of life for all.