Water Sector Embracing Big Data

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The water sector has collected reams of data for decades, but it's only within the last few years that utilities, agencies, consultants and vendors have begun to use that data to improve everything from managing maintenance to predicting water flow to digitally mimicking an entire watershed. The move to leverage digital information in the sector over the last two to three years is "drastic," says Luis Casado, senior vice president of water for Gannett Fleming and one of several people who spoke passionately about the possibilities of water data at Water Environment Federation's annual WEFTEC conference Oct. 1-3 in New Orleans. Firms like Gannett Fleming, Arcadis, Brown and Caldwell, and Jacobs are taking previously underutilized information from supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems, and pairing it with historic datasets and additional sensor data to create customized digital dashboards and applications for water agencies and related entities. "It's not a single piece of software, it's an approach of how you look at data and how you merge that information and use it effectively in day-to-day operation," said Kevin Stively, smart utility leader for Brown and Caldwell, in a presentation at the event. He said historical information can be layered on real-time information to help a younger workforce make the operational decisions that older workers relied on their "gut" to make.

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