Water access and sanitation
NIRAS has extensive experience supporting water utilities and institutions in defining and implementing their digitalisation roadmaps in a wide range of country contexts across the globe.
What digitalisation can achieve
Digital solutions in the water sector are transforming how utilities manage their water and sanitation assets and deliver their services to customers. Sensors installed on the network and installations, connected to the internet (aka internet-of-things - IoT) provide real-time information allowing utilities to detect and address anomalies such as water leaks or sewage overflows much earlier. This information is further used and processed to monitor and optimise their operational performance faster and better than before. Digital technologies like cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms allow for remote control of systems and processes. Digital data systems designed for regulatory reporting improve the overall governance of water utilities and resources. Customer metering combined with mobile payments, billing automation and customer engagement platforms can transform customer interaction. Despite the opportunities, the full benefits of digitalisation are yet to be fully utilised, key constraints can include staff ICT capacities, customer resistance to smart meters and the costs of digital systems if not used appropriately. With increasing pressure on water resources from climate change and rapid urbanisation, overcoming these constraints is crucial.
Services we offer
- Developing tailored digital strategies for water utilities in low and middle-income country contexts, from selecting technologies to managing technical operations, customer engagement, cost estimation, staff capacity and regulatory compliance;
- Developing resilient and interlinked digital systems for water utilities (e.g. linking smart meter reading with ERP platforms, billing and customer engagement) that allow for real-time monitoring of operational conditions, demand management and automation;
- Monitoring of utility system performance using sensors and IoT, allowing for leak and fraud detection;
- Development of ‘digital twins’ through advanced modelling and monitoring applications (smart water systems), allowing for remote management and optimisation of network infrastructures in real-time;
- Smart metering for automated household / business meter reading, improving billing efficiencies;
- Digital pay-as-you-go services, connecting customers to utility providers and improving financial sustainability of utilities;
- Enhancing customer engagement through mobile phone-based communication, allowing for two-way communication between customers and utility providers;
- Integrated water resource management and hydrological studies using advanced digital technologies; and
- Digitalisation training and capacity building.
Examples from our work
LEAKman digital platform
Together with nine Danish partners (including the Technical University of Denmark), NIRAS has developed the cutting-edge LEAKman digital platform which integrates all available systems and technologies used by water utilities, applying these actively for NRW management and water loss control. LEAKman is designed as a cloud-based Smart Water System that provides a holistic overview of the state of the network through online monitoring of performance indicators. The tool provides a unique overview to define and initiate performance improvement initiatives in real-time. The LEAKman concept is designed as being component-based as it can be described as a “box of building blocks” and can, as such, be modified to fit with any utility by applying already existing systems, and then adding the required LEAKman components (building blocks) on top. This approach has proven to be capable of reducing NRW to under 10% in a district within two years and maintained at that level. NIRAS is currently implementing the LEAKman concept, partially or in full, in Denmark, Norway, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.
Non-revenue water management information system
For the Water Authority of Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, NIRAS designed and implemented its real time water and wastewater network management system in a pilot operational area consisting of 11 distribution zones. The system implemented is an holistic non-revenue water (NRW) management information system allowing for the piloting leak detection activities in real time as well as monitoring and reporting the NRW key performance indicators. The system combines sensors on the distribution network (bulk meters, noise loggers), the deployment of the real-time hydraulic model (solution AQUIS) and NIRAS’ Business Intelligence Platform - HOMIS. NIRAS also implemented real-time wastewater hydraulic models aimed at forecasting and anticipating the response to storm events, reducing the risk of flooding, as well as optimising odour control during dry weather.
NIRAS uses digitalisation to make energy systems more sustainable, connected, efficient and accessible for all. We have over 200 in-house energy specialists and have worked in over 20 countries.
What digitalisation can achieve
Digitalisation is making energy systems across the world more sustainable, connected, efficient and accessible for all. Digitalisation will play a key role in decarbonising global energy systems and reducing the energy-poverty crisis currently experienced by over half the world’s population. The transition to renewable energy depends heavily on digital technologies to connect decentralised grids and manage both energy demand and supply. Weather and market demand data can be used to optimise renewable energy production and renewable power grids can be better managed using internet-connected sensors and ‘digital twins’, supporting real-time decision making. Digital technologies can also optimise the energy used by buildings and industry. Data gathered through sensors and smart meters can detect energy usage and the factors that drive it, like climate. This data can be used to send alerts to consumers or automate usage through AI.
Services we offer
- Digital solutions for renewable energy from connecting producers, to optimising energy production and supply
- Energy efficiency and optimisation in buildings and industrial environments using digital sensors, data analytics and automation
- Improving off-grid access business models through for example solar panels and mobile-money platforms
- Energy finance strategies for funding digital innovation in the sector
- Digital capacity building and institutional strengthening within the energy sector
- Policy and regulatory framework development allowing for enabling environment for digitalisation and digital solutions
- Developing innovative digital-based business models e.g. pay-as-you-go models customers to use solar panels, battery storage or clean cookstoves
Examples from our work
Bioenergy for Sustainable Local Energy Services and Energy Access in Africa - Phase 2 (BSEAA2)
NIRAS partnered with Aston University, E4tech and AIGUASOL for the two-year BSEAA2 research project as part of the Transforming Energy Access programme. BSEAA2 aimed at generating evidence-based analysis, practical resources and tools to assist entrepreneurs, investors and policy-makers in assessing the feasibility and application of bioenergy to catalyse action for the further development of commercial-scale bioenergy in the region. The open-source tools developed under the BSEAA2 programme included a Bioenergy Mass Energy Balance tool (an Excel-based technical assessment tool that models the mass energy balance of seven different demand sectors to provide an assessment of feedstock requirements (type, quantity, energy output) to meet the potential energy requirements using the appropriate technology type (either combustion or AD) and a Life Cycle Costing tool (an Excel-based economic assessment tool that models the life cycle costs of bioenergy projects to help developers determine the economic viability of investing in bioenergy).
Renewable Energies Programme (PEERR)
GIZ's PEERR initiative that ran across two phases had the objective of creating an enabling environment for grid-connected renewable energy technologies and increasing energy efficiency in Bolivia. NIRAS supported the Bolivian Ministry of Energy on development of an online communication and knowledge management platform for stakeholders (universities, TVET institutions, etc.) on renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE). We also developed virtual / digital training offers for lecturers and sector specialists in RE / EE, in cooperation with educational institutions such as universities and vocational schools.
Energy Enterprise Coach (EEC)
Funded by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, EEC is a four-year €2.89 million programme set up to support the professionalisation of clean energy SMEs (encompassing at least 25% women-owned businesses) aspiring to scale operations and become investment ready in Africa and Asia. One of the three pillars of support is the design and development of a tailor-made e-learning platform for RE enterprises that provides entrepreneurs with a holistic overview of the business building blocks. These are encapsulated in ten e-learning courses tailored to the clean energy sector and offered in English and French. Learners also have access to online support from experienced regional mentors to assist them in their capacity development and successful completion of the course.