Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

When Pnina Vortman was growing up in Israel, she was aware of the importance of water in her life. Israel is a semi-arid country that depends in large part on the Sea of Galilee for drinking water and other uses. A breakthrough came in 1964 when Israel completed its  National Water Carrier network, which brought abundant water supplies to the central and southern parts of the country. The system made possible massive irrigation projects, which transformed parts of Israel into a garden paradise. Mangos and other fresh fruits and vegetables starting appearing in her family’s kitchen.

Today, as a scientist with IBM Research, Vortman’s job is to come up with breakthroughs that enable water utilities to conserve water and money, while at the same time providing the water that consumers want and need. She leads a team at IBM Research – Haifa that designed a new system for monitoring and managing water pressure that could provide a model for many cities and communities seeking to deal with tight water supplies and growing demands. IBM has put the system to work for the Sonoma Country Water Agency, which serves more than 600,000 customers in Northern California. The first pilot is being done with the Valley of the Moon Water District, one of the distributors of the agency’s water. “We found that if we can manage the pressure in a flexible way, everybody can benefit,” says Vortman.

IBM has been working with the water agency for several years to help it improve efficiency and balance the needs of consumers and the natural environment.

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The latest work with the agency, which is led by IBM Research – Haifa, is aimed at addressing a conundrum in water management: how do you keep pressure at the right level for users without worsening leaks and wearing out equipment? The answer, according to Vortman, is that water utilities have to view their systems holistically and manage them more precisely. They must view the water system as a complex entity and come up with a way of optimizing it to produce the most efficient and effective results–just like you optimize a transportation system, an electrical grid or a company’s supply chain.

In the past, Sonoma kept the pressure high on the entire water-delivery system so it wouldn’t get complaints from customers. But that put a lot of stress on their equipment. Vortman and her team tapped data analytics to help address the problem. Using the agency’s existing pressure and flow meters, they have mapped the system and created a statistical model integrated with hydraulic simulation that they use to simulate what happens when pressure is increased or decreased in specific areas. Using the simulations as a guide, the agency’s engineers manually adjust pumps and valves spread throughout the county.

The system was installed in October, and, already, Vortman says, it has helped improve the agency’s efficiency. The agency avoided massive pressure spikes, which happened before, to deal with localized pressure deficiencies. Vortman and her team are now working on refinements that will make it easier for the agency to spot the location of leaks in pipes and other equipment so they can be fixed quickly and affordably.

For Vortman, better water management is more than just a job; it’s a quest. “Every country has to come up with new ways of dealing with water. Analytics can help,” she says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments
 
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June 16, 2013
5:32 am

You can certainly see your expertise in the article you write.

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Posted by: es-el.Com
 
May 10, 2012
12:41 pm

In addition to the infrastructure improvements Steve talks about in Sonoma, what about the use of non-potable water to achieve efficiency goals on a property? Being more efficient with precious natural resources is a priority for every city, company or person. In fact, water is just about the top topic of every conversation we (landscape contractor) have now with companies and water agencies across the country. I’d recommend checking out Richard Restuccia’s recent water blog post on the future of non-potable water use: http://valleycresttakeson.com/watermanagement/technology/the-future-of-non-potable-water-use/


Posted by: Dennis Kaiser
 
March 26, 2012
4:41 am

Balance is definitely key. But water flow meters may be a way to help businesses save on water!


Posted by: water flow meter
 
March 24, 2012
7:28 pm

This is true. It is important to satisfy consumers, but still saving water will not be taken for granted. This is just a matter of balance. This can be made successful when consumers are also aware in water conservation.


Posted by: water conservation
 
March 19, 2012
6:16 am

Eric, here’s a desalination project that IBM is working on. http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2010/04/solar-power-water-desalination-rivers-in-the-desert.html


Posted by: Steve Hamm
 
March 16, 2012
4:23 pm

This is a step in the right direction but what about turning Sea/Ocean/Salt Water into Safe, Clean, and Drinkable Water?? Is IBM working on Energy Efficient ways to do this???
This would Ultimately Benefit all Countries, People, Animals, and Plants by providing clean water to part that are short on it or has none at all.


Posted by: Eric
 
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March 7, 2012
7:22 am

[...] new program, that builds on an existing IBM-SCWA H2O government collaboration, uses analytics record to [...]


Posted by: IBM Analytics Help Sonoma County, California Conserve Water | BiZZBo@rd | Find People Who Share Your Business.
 
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