Digital Twinfrastructure Technology


Water and wastewater utilities provide reliable services at reasonable rates, and they are highly regulated entities that meet stringent regulatory requirements to keep the public healthy and the environment safe.

Unfortunately, these utilities are facing increasing challenges in operating, maintaining and renewing their wet infrastructure because the water industry is capital and energy intensive. [By “wet infrastructure” we mean the pipes, treatment plants, storage facilities and other critical components that deliver safe drinking water to our taps and remove and treat wastewater from our homes and other buildings].

The emergence of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and deep learning, predictive and prescriptive analytics, and smart meters and sensors are all bringing about a new paradigm in managing, operating, and sustaining wet infrastructure systems. These capabilities can leverage past technology investments and allow them to interact optimally through a digital twin of the physical wet infrastructure system.

The design, construction, operation, and maintenance of wet infrastructure systems rely on an array of data sources and numerous physics-based and data-driven models. Design engineers set the concept and develop the design based on established models and standards. Construction engineers use and document the data and generate details, quantities and as-built drawings, and develop construction sequence and methods. Operations and maintenance staff collect new data on production, consumption and energy usage as well as maintenance, inspections, and repairs. In addition, environmental scientists and planners combine data and models to predict and plan for future events and assess the impact of proposed schemes.


An infrastructure digital twin has the potential to assist water and wastewater utilities by reducing their overall costs (TOTEX), which will help to improve and sustain their wet infrastructures.

Given the overwhelming sources, complexity, and lack of interoperability of data and models, ready access to the most current and updated information for informed decision making may not be available. This creates inefficiencies and additional costs. It also leads to inadaptability and uncertainties, along with problems and reworks that were not identified early enough to mitigate their impact. Establishing an infrastructure digital twin with data intelligence that serves to drive a connected wet infrastructure system can help bridge that gap. In addition, the infrastructure digital twin can play a vital role in helping utilities, which are facing very tight municipal budgets, optimize their operations and capital spending, reduce infrastructure inefficiencies, increase resiliency, and plan and shape a better future.

Decades of under-investment have left a legacy of decaying and tumbling wet infrastructure. A significant portion is beginning to reach the end of its useful life — making it ill-equipped to address stricter regulatory requirements and environmental standards, growing populations, increased service demands, limited water supplies, extreme weather events, and decreased state and federal funding. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card scored our water and wastewater systems near-failing grades of D and D+, respectively. This critical infrastructure has been systematically underfunded, in part because raising rates is unpopular politically — especially to a nation accustomed to low water and sewer bills. The wet infrastructure investment gap is projected to fall 73% short of needs, further contributing to increased costs for treatment, pumping and operations. An infrastructure digital twin has the potential to assist water and wastewater utilities by reducing their overall costs (TOTEX), which will help to improve and sustain their wet infrastructures.

  An infrastructure digital twin is quite simply a software representation of the wet infrastructure whose information can be used to plan optimizations that will deliver improved business outcomes. By converging the digital worlds of Information Technology (IT) like GIS, BIM and EAM, with Operational Technology (OT) like telemetry, SCADA, sensors and actuators, and Engineering Technology (ET) like dynamic network and CFD simulation, an infrastructure digital twin becomes a high-potency digital replica of the actual physical system of operating wet infrastructure assets. This ability to bring all the physics-based and data-driven models and data together and making this data available through a common data environment help extract its value; enabling a consistent flow of information and enhancing business processes and efficiency.

  By delivering a 360-degree high-resolution view of how those infrastructure assets are currently operating, it enables modeling, analysis, simulation, diagnostics, prediction, and actionable insights in real time that can help make wet infrastructure assets perform better. It is able to precisely monitor asset health and performance, and timely recognize potential anomalies. It is also able to mirror and accurately simulate the operation of these assets, their surrounding environment, and how they interact in real time. This enables users to confidently “experiment with the future” and test out a wide range of “what-if?” scenarios, view and compare outcomes — without disrupting daily operations — in order to optimize asset performance. The result is more accurate forward visibility and better-informed decisions, driving better outcomes.

This interdependence also means that efficiency measures in one area have the potential to realize additional efficiencies in the others, enabling optimization across all wet infrastructure assets — from plant operations to collection and distribution networks. It also allows users to proactively identify risks, prevent potential problems in real time, develop new opportunities and inform future decisions, and even plan for the future. Reducing water main breaks and leaks and minimizing sewer overflow frequency, number and volume are some of the many benefits utilities can realize.

By removing the silos, inefficiencies, uncertainties, errors and huge resources inherent in working with traditional digital models, an infrastructure digital twin enables improvement in effectiveness, efficiency and service and reduction in costs. It dramatically shifts management decision making and expands wet infrastructure management across the entire infrastructure lifecycle, enabling utilities to optimize operations, design cost-effective maintenance strategies, better manage risk and limited budgets, identify efficiencies to generate additional revenue, increase collaboration, improve customer service and extend their wet infrastructure lifespans.

At Digital Water Works, we help you lead with the best-of-breed infrastructure digital twin technology and close your infrastructure funding gap — at a pace that’s right for your organization.

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