Critical Role That Technology Can Play To Make Water And Energy Usage Efficient

Saravanan Panneer Selvam, General Manager, Grundfos IndiaGrundfos is one of the global leaders in advanced pump solutions and a trendsetter in water technology.

Growing population, climate change, over-exploitation of existing resources and mismanagement of natural resources has strained India's conventional water and energy equilibrium. The availability of water per capita is expected to reduce to an all-time low of 1,140 cubic meters by 2050. This is dangerously close to the official water scarcity threshold and has raised critical concerns towards water management.

On the other hand, the country's energy industry has witnessed an incredible transformation in recent times. With futuristic policies and initiatives, India has gradually shifted from being an `energy deficient' to an `energy surplus' nation. With the usage of fossil fuels being a critical issue due to climate change and depleting availability, a push towards renewable resources have become the mandate for energy industry.

Water and energy are two intricately connected resources with a delicate balance. The relationship between water and energy forms a nexus and is the crux of this resource shortage crisis. The two industries are mutually dependent. While water is being used in most phases of energy production, energy is used to extract, treat and distribute water across its lifecycle.

Role of Technology in this Nexus
To conserve both resources for a sustainable future, successful technological disruptions must become a mainstay. Such solutions can potentially reduce demand for both the resources by exploring alternate avenues of supply.

Efficient technology will be able to address some of the challenges posed by the growing water crisis. Big data, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and sensors are some of these intelligent solutions. Sensors can be fitted in pipes and accessed remotely to monitor, not only water consumption but also any leakage. Recently, Shimla replaced over 164 worn out valves in the city pipes and installed sensors in the water storage tanks in the distribution network to
understand water overflow. Smart solutions can also analyze data to understand flow and pressure patterns of the water in a building, property or a city. Shimla was able to use the information it got from its sensors to not only improve water supply in the city but also reduce the wastage.

Smart pumps can take this data analysis to the next level by implementing it in its operations, thereby revolutionizing the way water is being consumed presently. Traditionally, pumps are operated throughout the day at the same speed. This causes significant water and energy loss as water consumption is not going to be at a uniform rate. After implementing intelligent solutions, pumps can now adjust the flow and pressure rates on a demand driven model of distribution. Smart pumps are also designed to operate optimally at the highest levels of energy efficiency. These solutions also increase the life of the pipelines which are mostly underground and hence the maintenance costs are also controlled.

Innovation is quickly and inevitably changing the processes and reinventing water management

Role of Renewable Energy in the Nexus
Countries across the world are realigning their sustainability goals to be able to adopt renewable energy solutions. India is currently in the 5th position and hopes to become a frontrunner by fulfilling ambitious capacity goals. The country has already installed a renewable energy capacity of 83,000 MW and the goal is to reach 200,000 MW capacity by 2022.

Renewable energy solutions could become the balancing factor for the current water-energy nexus. Introduction of renewable solutions in the water industry would subsequently reduce its dependence on the traditional grid power. It can also be the ideal solution for water supply in rural locations where power is either not available or unreliable.

Solar Pumps as a Preferred Solution
Considering India's tropical nature, solar energy has become a natural choice. There are several policies in place today to promote extensive use of solar energy. While companies and residences have been implementing solar panels to reduce their carbon footprint to some extent, solar pumps have been tremendously successful in agriculture and rural communities for water supply. These pumps are particularly beneficial in remote areas with limited or interrupted access to grid-based electricity. Solar pumps can operate for long periods of time with minimal intervention. These pumps might have an initial installation cost, but it has turned out to be a cost-effective option in consideration of the entire lifecycle due to minimal downtime and maintenance requirements. In addition to this, the government's KUSUM scheme has also subsidized and incentivized solar pump adoption further reducing the initial investment from one's own pocket.

Innovation is quickly and inevitably changing the processes and reinventing water management. Technologies involved in desalination and water treatment processes are expected to make them viable alternatives to freshwater and improve India's water stressed condition. Digitally we can virtually mirror physical assets, thereby opening new possibilities for testing stimulations for water processes before implementing them. Armed with these intelligent solutions, the water-energy nexus will definitely see a positive synergy.