Smart Water Networks in the U.S. – A Dream or Near-Future Reality? An Interview with Psomas President, Jacob Lipa
In June 2013, Psomas, a top-ranked consulting engineering firm formed a partnership with TaKaDu, a global leader in smart water network monitoring. Psomas now plans to serve the U.S. market by offering TaKaDu’s cloud based solution to monitor water distribution networks. In an interview with TaKaDu, Psomas President, Jacob Lipa offers his insights into the future of the U.S. water market and the important role of TaKaDu.
Psomas has been focused on the water market and its environmental needs for a very long time. In the United States, population growth, increased demand for water, the cost of water transmission and environmental complications such as climate change and contamination of ground water have resulted in policies that require further evaluation of cost effective solutions to its water supply. Such needs together with aging water systems became a significant monetary challenge for all water utilities. Thus, we realized that the best way to cope with this dilemma was through innovation. Already active in the water sector, we knew that investing in smart water technologies like TaKaDu could help utilities better cope with their key operational challenges. We were attracted to TaKaDu’s ability to provide full visibility into water systems detecting all anomalies in the system including their size and location and further layering it with a very effective asset management program allowing the utility to take immediate action, pre-empt customer calls and save money.
Has Psomas been involved in selling or representing data driven or software solutions in other fields? Do you expect the water sector to act in a similar way?
In addition to the water sector, Psomas offers creative, design solutions for the transportation, land development, and energy markets. We have always invested in effective technologies that can help our clients. For example, we are at the forefront of new survey technologies such as 3D Laser Scanning and mobile scanning. Our Construction Management Group has developed its own very effective construction management software that is used by our clients. Also, Digital Map Products (www.digitalmapproducts.com), a geospatial technology that helps agencies and real estate companies access and easily analyze special information was incubated at Psomas. We expect the water sector, as well, to continue adopting new technologies and benefit from innovative, hi-tech solutions like TaKaDu.
What will influence water utilities to adopt smart water technologies?
Long-term water shortages and its effects on future development is an area that we continue to study and become aware of its consequences. We have found that water conservation alone will not be enough to address water shortages. There needs to be more infrastructure investment as well as breakthrough innovation. Utilities now face political pressure to keep rates low – so low that many do not recover their full cost of doing business. Through the use of smart water solutions like TaKaDu, utilities can increase their operational efficiency, save water and energy, and improve customer relations.
What states do you see as the early adopters of new smart water technologies?
I believe that adopting smart water technologies such as Takadu is not a function of geography. Although some areas of the U.S. have older infrastructure, others deal with water shortage, others with cost of water transmission, water quality or other environmental sensitivities, and probably all deal with the cost of labor and client satisfaction. The answer to all of these challenges is better visibility into their systems and better tools for decision making about maintenance. This what a smart water system provides.
Where do you see smart water network solutions in the U.S. 10 years from now?
I believe that in the next 5-10 years, the U.S. water sector will experience a similar evolution as the electrical industry, becoming a smart water grid. The initial steps are already being taken. In May 2013, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would create the “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority” (WIFIA) to aid communities with low-interest federal loans for large water infrastructure projects. U.S. smart meter spending is also projected to increase by $2 billion by 2020 according to Bloomberg reports. The next steps will be the increase in use of telemetry and SCADA systems to further gather and analyze real-time data and technologies like TaKaDu to provide utilities with advanced Decision Support Systems. I believe the U.S. water sector is on the verge of transformation, we have no other choice but proactively manage our most precious resource and this will lead to wide adoption of intelligent solutions.