Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Sewage and wastewater:  not the most appealing things to consider, yet consider them we must, because many of today’s aging water and sewer infrastructures are, quite literally, coming apart at the seams.  As with most problems, ignoring this one doesn’t make it go away, either.  Spills, leaks and overflows are becoming all too common: wasting water, spewing pollution into rivers, lakes and oceans, harming wildlife and the environment, and presenting an enormous threat to public health.

Yet in many places, water remains an afterthought.  Communities often resent water restrictions, not understanding the need to conserve.  And while upgrades or repairs to existing systems may seem expensive, the stakes are too high to ignore:  this map neatly shows that nearly half of the world’s population faces a water shortage.  And this one shows the widespread reach of groundwater contamination.  None of this is going to change by itself.

On its website, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water notes that given the scarcity of freshwater supplies and the intrinsic value of our water resources, water should be recognized as a precious commodity and protected…and goes on to say that because water is considered common property that belongs to everyone and no one, it is subjected to exploitation and misuse.

Many communities face significant challenges when it comes to managing aging water and sewer infrastructures.  But since we at IBM began to explore how we could apply advanced analytics and other technologies to help create sustainable water systems, we’ve found a growing number of people ready to think differently about the value of water, ready to meet those challenges head on.  Our collaboration with the city of Dubuque, Iowa, continues with the rollout of a smart water meter pilot that will let customers see trends in their water use and help them to conserve.  And in Sacramento, California, we’re helping two agencies – the Sacramento Area Sewer District (SASD) and the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (SRCSD) — improve water quality and help prevent sewage spills.

SRCSD treatment process

SRCSD treatment process

The SASD manages wastewater collection services for more than one million people in the Sacramento region via a complex system that includes 52 miles of forced mains and pressure systems, 3,000 miles of gravity sewers, and 279,000 service level connections.

And the SRCSD, which treats wastewater from the SASD along with other regional wastewater collection agencies, runs a state of the art treatment plant comprising nearly 100 miles of pipeline and 20 pump stations. On an average day, the plant moves and treats approximately 165 million gallons of wastewater—enough to fill a football field 40 stories high.

SRCSD plant control center

SRCSD plant control center

Keeping track of all those moving parts – not to mention maintenance records, service calls, compliance reports and so on – was once a major headache, to say the least.  Now, we’re helping these agencies collect, analyze and share data in real time so that they can identify and prevent emerging problems before they happen.  That’s pretty cool.

In these cities and in many others around the world, we’re finding advocates, collaborators and partners who are ready, willing and able to make significant changes in the name of sustainability and environmental stewardship.  Because truly, it’s not a choice, it’s an imperative.

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February 27, 2016
12:16 am

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Posted by: Demarcus Carnevale
November 14, 2011
9:15 pm

Sewers should really be controlled in order to conserve water.

Posted by: Sarah Bernheim
November 14, 2011
8:14 pm

The aging water and sewage infrastructure is apparent in many cities across North America. As the infrastructure is being replaced, it makes a lot of sense to put in smart metering.

Posted by: David
November 14, 2011
7:43 pm

This is really a serious matter. I am not against with the answers as long as they can prove that they can really prevent spills.

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August 22, 2011
11:47 am

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Posted by: Ileana Paxson
July 26, 2011
8:20 pm

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Posted by: Sean Santheson
March 1, 2011
1:14 pm

this is a informative and useful site here, we must take care of our water.
because water is life. we should save it before no more clean water left.

Posted by: Marketingbum
October 3, 2010
2:05 am

You’re right when you say, “…and goes on to say that because water is considered common property that belongs to everyone and no one, it is subjected to exploitation and misuse.”

No one takes care of someone else’s property better than he takes care of his own.

And, yes, data feed back via charts will make them see what misuse and/or abuse is happening.

Posted by: Charlie at Gain Financial Freedom Org.
August 25, 2010
2:55 pm

Water trend analysis will help consumers monitor there usage by month and season year over year. One of the best ways to conserve is to show people how to save money by enabling them to see how and when to reduce usage

Posted by: Tom Wilson
February 12, 2010
1:41 pm

Being able to monitor the systems, will increase cost savings, operational efficiency and better waste management. This is a excellent advancement towards building a smarter planet.

Posted by: Naim Brown
February 11, 2010
3:11 pm

The sewers strain could be significantly diminished if they were to invest in simple solid removal technologies. Wastewater can be a revenue source not only by selling the water but by converting the waste into usable energy. Malibu, CA is already looking into applying the technology.

Posted by: Toni Stedman
1 Trackback
February 24, 2010
1:39 pm

[...] is helping with Sacramento’s sewage [IBM blog], but I don’t know if they are preventing spills (storm flows) or removing all [...]

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