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Using GIS for smart and sustainable drinking water management

Using GIS for smart and sustainable drinking water management

We could say, and we are not wrong, that there is no more precious and valuable resource for human beings than water. We need it to live, that is a fact. Just a few facts: the human body is made up of 60% water and the planet is made up of 97.5%, but unfortunately, only 2.5% is fresh. Hence, the importance of sustainable water management. Are GIS the tool we can use to make this possible? Read more.

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What if this gesture were at risk?

Current water situation

The figures are alarming, even if we are not fully aware of them because we live in the so-called «first world». For us, water is an element that is part of everyday life, for drinking, cooking and showering, but this is not the case in all regions of the world. There are more than 7.7 billion people living in the world, 2.1 billion of whom do not have access to a water supply and 844 million of whom do not have access to a basic drinking water service. Do you realise now what a privilege it is to turn on the tap and fill a glass every morning?

Global drought

And the situation is not likely to get much better in the future. Think closer to home, remember the restrictions experienced this summer in many municipalities in Spain. The level of water in reservoirs and dams has failed to rise, standing at 32.5% of their capacity, the lowest level for this time of year (November 2022) since the drought of 1995.

These are not encouraging figures if we extrapolate them to the rest of the world, and which highlight, according to a World Bank report, that water shortages due to climate change could not only endanger up to 6% of a country’s GDP, but also increase migration and conflicts, and we are talking about between now and 2030, as they say, the day after tomorrow.

Old water infrastructure

Shall we add another worrying factor to this situation? The challenge posed to drinking water management by old supply and sanitation infrastructures. It is a fact that it is becoming increasingly complex and costly to maintain and repair them. For this reason, consultancies, engineering and maintenance companies have to analyse and assess with special attention where to carry out renovation operations.

Fortunately, all is not lost and Geographic Information Systems are great allies for the water sector.

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The older the infrastructure, the greater the risk of breakdowns and failures.

What is sustainable water management?

GIS and water, the perfect tandem? Definitely, because Geographic Information Systems are, to date, the only tool that allows the entire process to be managed in an intelligent and sustainable way.

But let’s get down to business: what does sustainable water management consist of? Nothing more and nothing less than optimising the entire journey that water makes from the time it is collected for our consumption until it is returned to nature. It is a complex process, but essential if we want to optimise every drop that passes through our hands. It means monitoring the state of facilities and infrastructures in real time, stopping leaks as immediately as possible, predicting breakdowns and breaks before they occur and encouraging responsible use through the collection and inventory of urban data. 

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Remember, every drop counts

Solutions for efficient management

Not only that, a faithful ally of the GIS is the digital twin, which we have discussed in previous publications. What is its purpose in the interest of efficient management? Thanks to the digital twins, by simulating any type of situation or circumstance, it is possible to answer transcendental unknowns applied to the water industry. From knowing what will happen in a given sewerage network if there is a break or leak at two o’clock in the morning, to finding out, for example, how the infrastructures will behave in certain climatic conditions such as frost or periods of extreme heat.

Benefits of GIS in drinking water management

And we end these lines by talking about one of the many advantages offered by this complete tool in supply and sanitation networks. Because now or in a few months’ time it may seem far away, but we must not forget the important role that GIS played in the pandemic. Did you know that thanks to them, the health authorities were able to analyse the state of wastewater to find out, in an updated way, the incidence of COVID-19 and make better decisions in the management of the virus?

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