The fragility points of the Italian water sector are numerous: backwardness of infrastructure, unequal distribution of water, high losses from the network, high territorial and managerial fragmentation, lack of purification plants, uncontrolled waste, inadequate pricing, scarcity of financial resources, increasing impact of climate change.
Utilitalia (the association of water, energy and environmental companies), has analyzed 54 companies which serve over 30 million people, discovering that the average rate of dispersion in the North is 26%, in the Center and in the South 46%. Old pipes and poorly maintained and monitored systems often run underground. 60% of the infrastructures were laid more than 30 years ago (70% in large urban centers) and 25% are more than half a century old (40% in large cities). The emergency, today and for the next few years, is the combination of these factors: increasing consumption and reduced availability of water, less diluted and therefore at greater risk of pollution. However, it is paradoxical to record a water crisis in a country whose total renewable water resources are estimated at around 168 billion m³, a figure higher than countries such as Great Britain and Germany. Italy can also count on one of the most important water reserve systems in Europe consisting of 53.64% glaciers, 26.2% lakes and reservoirs, 12.2% streams, 8% aquifers, 0.1% desalinated water.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
In addition to this national scenario, there is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an action program signed by 193 member countries of the United Nations that sets 17 macro-goals to be achieved by 2030 to ensure a fair and ecological development of our societies.
The path sets ambitious goals on many fronts. Goal 6 concerns the use and safeguarding of water resources. Among its points are universal and safe access to safe drinking water, protection of water-related ecosystems, and better management of water resources. In particular, some of the goals explicitly address wastewater and water efficiency.
The first is to improve water quality by 2030 by eliminating landfills, reducing pollution and the release of hazardous chemicals and waste, halving the amount of untreated wastewater, and greatly increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
The second goal is to increase water-use efficiency in every sector by 2030 and ensure sustainable drinking water supplies and procurements to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people affected by it
Finally, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation, by 2030 as appropriate
The value of information
In Italy, remote control, remote maintenance, data monitoring for the transport and distribution of water is still largely to be developed and standardized. In this scenario the intent of SENECA is to ensure real-time knowledge of available data and thus offer new information and concrete economic opportunities. Without a correct information is not possible to recognize in time the signs of a water crisis and put in place the appropriate interventions. The availability of data acquisition and remote control systems, properly sized and verified, is a prerequisite for the continuous detection of measurements in the field and data transmission to control and supervision centers.
In terms of information management, the remote control of the main variables of the water process is an essential support to decision-making processes for the management of the territory, maintenance and emergencies.
Today, with the so-called digital revolution, the most advanced smart technologies come into play, such as the Internet of Things, Cloud platforms, as well as the growing flow of information determined by Big Data from territories, institutions, companies and citizens. These technologies have the power to inform us and let us know in real time how much water we consume, how much we waste, how much we pollute.
We must always keep in mind that the information acquired by the plants on which the control, analysis and monitoring activities are based, comes from signals and measurements in the field. The first ingredient of our recipe, therefore, can only be the correct and systematic acquisition of data.
In the face of numerous technical and organizational innovations, short-term benefits include improved management of leaks and network pressures, automated and remote management of operations with shared Scada and Databases. The latter allow for increased productivity and savings on routine maintenance and improved overall efficiency through the proper compilation of water balances.
Where databases of key water parameters are shared between utilities and managing bodies in a transparent and collaborative manner, it would be possible to make a further qualitative leap in data analysis, management cost containment and water crisis prevention. At the same time a public dissemination of information, for example through web channels, would allow to inform and involve citizens, increase the sense of participation, change consumption habits.
From the point of view of managers, the savings resulting from the adoption of these technologies also translate into managerial-administrative forms: from the improvement of financial accounting to the recovery of losses and waste, from the rationalization of resources to the management of mobile or remote interventions by operational staff.
The role of data and collaboration with system integrators
In the process of evolution towards Industry 4.0, utilities are involved in the first place for their rich endowment of sensors and devices located on the territory: from smart meters of energy distribution networks, from traffic control to urban waste collection systems able to communicate with vehicles, up to the infrastructure of public lighting, district heating and consumption monitoring managed with energy efficiency systems. In these areas SENECA has developed solutions of excellence dedicated to data collection, alarming, remote control, remote assistance and energy saving, so as to become one of the few Italian manufacturers in the field. Through the use of emerging platforms based on cloud technologies, VPN, IoT, M2M, SENECA devices and systems allow users and managing bodies to rationalize resources and monitor plants in a simple and economical way. With SENECA’s 4.0 approach applied to the territory, added value is created beyond the boundaries of the facilities. Value is achieved by acquiring, exchanging and sharing data through reliable communication systems. Another fundamental aspect for SENECA in an increasingly difficult and competitive market is to facilitate the meeting with system integrators in the area for the development of innovative case histories.