How Is Automation Changing Water Treatment for the Better?
No other natural resource is as significant to life and business as water. Not only is water essential for human life, but it also plays a central role in many industrial operations. Conserving it is crucial. Consequently, the benefits of automated water treatment are becoming increasingly appealing.
Though water is technically a renewable resource, it doesn’t replenish itself like other renewables. Rather, people must reuse it, which requires wastewater treatment. Since only 0.3% of the world’s water is usable to humans, as water consumption rises, treatment processes must improve.
As in virtually every other industry, automation can bring substantial improvements to water treatment. Here’s how this technology is changing the sector for the better.
More Insightful Data
In a traditional water treatment plant, employees periodically sample the water to gather data. This process is slow and provides only a limited scope, rendering itself insufficient for the modern world. Automated water treatment can enable ongoing sampling, saving time and providing better, more complete data.
Automation and data collection go hand-in-hand since automated systems rely on data to operate. As a result, when treatment plants implement automation, they get data visibility at the same time. With an automated system, workers can instantly check real-time data, and some solutions even come with built-in analytics software.
These analytics provide treatment facilities with a roadmap of where and how to improve. They can then adjust as needed to produce cleaner water faster. If any unexpected circumstances arise, this continuous data collection can also warn employees so they can react sooner.
Energy efficiency is a critical concern for any operation, but especially in water treatment. Water plants are typically the largest municipal energy consumers, accounting for 40% of total electricity consumption. Efficiency is also a business concern, as energy can make up 40% of a water system’s operating costs.
Automated water treatment systems can react in real-time to the data they gather. Various factors could result in a facility needing more or less energy at any given time. Automated solutions can recognize when this demand changes and adjust to use only as much energy as necessary.
For example, blowers in aeration basins can use 60% of a facility’s energy, but their energy needs change. An automated aeration basin can detect whether there are fewer suspended solids present, requiring less power, and lower its electrical consumption in response. Facilities will use less energy for the same amount of work, saving money and reducing emissions.
Wastewater treatment facilities typically deal with massive volumes of water. Across the U.S., these plants process 34 billion gallons of water a day, with each facility treating tens of millions of gallons. While that’s a remarkable figure, it can be even higher, thanks to automation.
Since automation reduces the number of workers needed for one process, it can raise capacity at a minimal cost. Facilities can perform more work with the same amount of workers, so they can expand quickly. Efficiency savings from automation enabled one plant to process 17 million more gallons a day.
Automation can increase capacity further by optimizing distribution. Automated systems can analyze data across basins to see which are at capacity and which still have room. They can then distribute incoming water accordingly, ensuring every part of the process contributes as much as it can.
Wastewater treatment systems, like any machine, need regular maintenance. Maintaining peak performance is more critical in these instances than others, though, as they work with such high volumes. Any unexpected breakdowns or malfunctions could be catastrophic, not just for the facility but the area it serves.
As automated systems work, the data they collect can reveal information about their condition. If they pick up on unusual or declining speeds, excessive noise, or similar red flags, they can report it to workers. Employees can then perform maintenance and fix the issue before it becomes a more pressing and costly matter.
This automated, data-based approach to maintenance is ideal, as repair needs rarely fall along a schedule. It can increase availability by 15% and reduce maintenance costs by 25%. In facilities as crucial and high-volume as water treatment plants, these savings would be substantial.
Water and energy aren’t the only resources water treatment plants use. These facilities also rely on various chemicals to change the pH level of wastewater, remove contaminants, and sterilize the water. Just as automated water treatment adjusts its energy use as needed, it can do the same with these resources.
Not all of the water that comes into treatment plants will have the same level of contamination. As a result, not every batch needs the same amount of chemicals to process. Manual approaches can’t easily account for this, since it takes longer to gather data, but automated systems can.
Since automated solutions have access to real-time data, they can likewise adjust in real-time. They can then avoid over-application and under-application, improving the treatment process and saving money.
Drinking water and wastewater treatment plants have to comply with strict regulations. For example, the EPA has identified 125 priority toxic pollutants that facilities must remove before re-using water. Automation makes complying with these regulations an easier task.
In a manual approach, employees have to monitor and continually test the water to ensure it meets standards. This process is both time-consuming and prone to error, as humans can easily make mistakes after hours of repetitive work. In automated water treatment, machines do the lion’s share of the work involved.
Automated systems can provide continual, real-time data reports, streamlining the testing process. Since this happens automatically, employees don’t have to spend as much time ensuring compliance. Relying on data also lowers the risk of a mistake in this process.
Automated Water Treatment Can Create a Better World
Improvements in water treatment create a domino effect of benefits throughout multiple industries and even life itself. When these processes work better, it leads to reduced costs, fewer emissions, and abundant clean water. Automation enables all of this.
Automated water treatment is transforming wastewater and drinking water facilities. Consequently, it’s improving any industry and process that relies on clean water.
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