Forward thinker Peter Steen Mikkelsen, Professor, DTU Environment, head of the cross-departmental center Water DTU. Too little. Too much. Too dirty. These are the three main challenges to global water supply. Many areas are faced with water scarcity, while others actually see too much water – or at least water in the wrong places caused by flooding and sky falls, sometimes related to climate change. Finally, water pollution is a concern around the globe. Digitization is key to meeting all three challenges. However, a much closer collaboration between utility suppliers, equipment manufacturers, consultants, and public authorities is needed to make it happen.
In association with the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) and the Danish Association of Consulting Engineers (FRI), DTU has just released a sector development report. As indicated by the title “Let Water and Data flow”, the report advocates for an increased level of digitization in the sector.
“We envision “Industry 4.0” thinking to be implemented in the water sector”, says Peter Steen Mikkelsen.
“As an example, sensors distributed across the pipelines will provide early warnings of corrosion in concrete pipes. Long before the damage causes breakdowns, maintenance can be arranged. Similarly, weather forecasts and precipitation measurements from radars may be processed into improved management of sewage and open water systems. In this way, flooding caused by heavy rainfall – becoming more frequent due to climate change – can be mitigated. Furthermore, the general monitoring and management of water systems can benefit strongly from digitization.”
First water track at the summit
The potential benefits of a digitized water sector can only be harvested through an improved collaboration between the various stakeholders, Peter Steen Mikkelsen emphasizes:
“The Danish water sector has made great achievements, but further action is needed to meet the goals of growth and increasing levels of exports in the industry’s “Water Vision 2025”. Also, there is a broad demand for a joint vision and overlapping incentive structures that can support these ambitions.”
The water research community at DTU is gearing up for a strong presence at the High Tech Summit. For the first time, the summit will see a track dedicated to water technology. This fits in nicely with this years’ overlying theme being sustainability.
“The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations point to several major technological and management challenges related to water. This calls for an interdisciplinary effort to strengthen collaboration in the sector’s ecosystem, and to integrate domain knowledge on water with expertise on digitization and more general integration skills,” says Peter Steen Mikkelsen.
Countdown to IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition
Contributing to the appropriate timing of the event is the fact that Copenhagen will host the 2020 version of the sector’s main global event, the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition. This will give the Danish water sector a unique opportunity for showcasing new products and solutions.
“For decades, Denmark has been focusing on green transformation of large parts of society. The time is now ripe to also focus on the water sector. Knowledge about water can become a new business adventure for Denmark, but there is a need for action both politically and among the sector’s stakeholders to initiate a more focused joint effort. The High Tech Summit 2019 will be the perfect occasion for kickstarting this collaboration.”
“It’s no use closing your eyes to the changes. We need to constantly keep up and try to influence the process.”
Professor Jan Madsen, DTU Compute