Organisations worldwide are helping to solve water scarcity, but more has to be done to meet the UN’s sustainability goals
By Sandra DiMatteo, Industry Marketing Director, Water Infrastructure at Bentley Systems
Around the globe, water scarcity affects millions of people each year. From the mountainous region of Tibet, where they need to consider building dams for water conservation, to the subtropical area of Santa Catarina in Brazil, where they face the worst water crisis in nearly 30 years, we can see that access to potable water is the most challenging issue the world faces.
In India, the government is also looking for ways to have clean water available across the country, particularly in small rural villages. To illustrate, the state of Uttar Pradesh has approximately one and a half million people living in nearly 400 villages, such as the small village of Khatan, that struggle every day to access clean water. In these villages, many women walk several kilometres each day to fetch water – often taking their children along, preventing them from attending school and obtaining a good education. Since water is the top priority of the villages, these women are also prevented from earning wages they need to support their families.
India Aims to Provide Clean Water for Its People
Uttar Pradesh State Water and Sanitation is improving the state’s water infrastructure with a mission to bring drinking water to every household. One of its projects is the Khatan Group of Villages Water Supply Scheme, awarded to Larsen & Toubro Construction. The project includes designing and constructing an intake well to collect water from the Yamuna River, as well as an approach bridge that connects to a water treatment plant, 40 intermediate booster pumping stations, 121 elevated storage tanks to distribute the water through a 1,531-kilometre pipeline network, and a 2,129-kilometre distribution pipeline network that serves the community. Larsen & Toubro Construction needed to provide a complete solution, from concept to commissioning, that extends into 10 years of operation and maintenance for what will be an integrated smart water system.
There were many engineering challenges, magnified by a very tight timeline. Within six months, the team had to generate 890 BIM models for 200 different structures, all considering various soil interactions. The design of the water supply system proved to be a significant challenge, so the team turned to Bentley software to help determine the best and most economical design.
Larsen & Toubro used an in-house electronic document management system to manage the five disciplines involved in the drawings. The documents were uploaded in the EDMS database for verification by corresponding section heads. The section heads of the corresponding disciplines reviewed the drawings and gave clearance that all of the requirements were updated. After clearance, the workflow was automatically routed for interfacing to the respective disciplines, then re-routed to the design division head for final review.
Using OpenFlows WaterGEMS, the engineering team rapidly designed the network, putting them ahead of schedule. With the help of STAAD.Pro, the team was able to quickly design the structural foundations for the treatment facility, elevated storage tanks, and other structures, allowing the design work to be completed 30% faster than they would have using manual methods. They used PLAXIS to secure the safety of the work area, determining safe excavation sloping and saving time and money. The engineering design phase was thankfully ahead of schedule saving two precious months due to digitalisation support from Bentley applications, helping them to deliver the project 25% faster.
Working Smarter to Improve the Health, Education, and the Livelihood of People in the Community
Enabling access to water for the community, and completing this project faster, will have enormous value for the local households, food, culture, health, education, economics, as well as the integrity of the natural environment. The project will enable 1.5 million people to achieve sustainable health through quality drinking water. From improving access to education to enabling women to earn a wage instead of fetching water, this social commitment is impacting the quality of life in this area.
A key consideration in the engineering of this project was that the treatment facility had to fit within a very limited land area. Larsen & Toubro were sensitive and considerate in keeping the sacred grounds of the nearby temple untouched. Located directly in the middle of the space to avoid upsetting the local community, they found innovative ways to connect pipelines around the temple grounds. It is a testament to the Larsen & Toubro’s values, skills, and caring culture that they prided themselves on this attention to detail.
The Indian government has long trusted Larsen & Toubro, and their sustainability practices shine as evidenced in their work for economic, environmental, and social responsibility. As a builder of major infrastructure projects in India, they are constantly contributing to the quality of life of the communities they impact. Their team fosters continuous growth toward ESG-related concerns such as climate stewardship, green initiatives, and the circular economy with a dedication to reuse, recycle, repair, and refurbish as long as possible.
Water Conservancy Initiative Reduces Environmental Impact
Located in the high-altitude alpine region of Tibet, the PZ Dam is a hydro complex that is part of a water conservancy initiative. It is focused on irrigating 2,600 hectares downstream and generating power to help improve both urban and rural water supply and the regional water ecological environment. Knowing the importance of subsurface findings, the survey and design team faced challenging terrain, extreme environmental conditions, and a short construction period. Given the fragile ecological environment and extreme cold, traditional survey methods could not accommodate the investigation. China Water Resources Beifang Investigation, Design and Research Co. Ltd. explored digital data acquisition and 3D modelling of geological data but found that many software products lacked the ability to integrate and maximise data potential.
Using Bentley’s ContextCapture, China Water found they could more easily process data for geological visibility. They also deployed ProjectWise for multi discipline collaboration and to streamline data sharing. The team digitised the entire survey process, including field data acquisition and transmission, data storage and analysis, 3D geological modelling, and data simulation and analysis. The solution saved CNY 400,000 in survey costs and over 50% in survey time, improving data accuracy by over 10% and work efficiency by over 15%. Establishing a digital twin enhanced project management by 10% and set an industry benchmark. By going digital, the team saw their efficiency improve from 40% to 95% compared to traditional survey methods. Using a digital twin approach, the construction team reduced the amount of excavation needed during construction, the impact on the environment, and provided a successful and proven plan for similar high-altitude projects both in China and throughout the world.
A Contingency Plan to Ensure Supply in the Event of Drought
After a severe water crisis, over 100 municipalities in Brazil declared a state of emergency, and rationing and supply rotation went into effect. This water crisis triggered the city of Joinville to develop contingency plans to maintain the water supply during drought conditions. Preliminary simulations produced water shortages, so they sought a more comprehensive network study. They used Bentley applications to create a digital twin and perform hydraulic analysis of the distribution system, guaranteeing water supply while saving BRL 4.5 million as a result of maximising operational performance and efficiency. Technology enabled this innovative solution and gave residents peace of mind.
Bentley’s mission is to provide innovative software and services for the enterprises and professionals who design, build, and operate the world’s infrastructure – advancing both the global economy and the environment for improved quality of life. Connecting the entire water cycle, engineering firms trust Bentley software to accelerate the design and construction phase, then once in operation, utilities can optimise the water system to avoid supply interruptions, ensure compliance to regulations, and mitigate risks. Partnering for success to digitalise the water project and asset lifecycle, Bentley is leading the way to the digital water future.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back on UN’s 2030 Sustainability Goal for Water
The Larsen and Toubro project demonstrates the importance of accelerating access to clean water. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6 established this lofty universal call to action as part of the 17 sustainability goals agreed upon by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by the year 2030. Goal #6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. It encompasses six outcome-oriented targets, including safe and affordable drinking water and improving water quality.
But globally, we need more. We are making good progress with Bentley and Larsen & Toubro working together to accelerate the delivery of water supply to the communities of India. However, it is estimated, overall globally, that by 2025, the number of people that will live in water-scarce regions due to growing drought issues caused by climate change and population growth will in fact increase, not decrease. In many places we will be in a worse position than we were in 2015 when the goal was established. More people will have difficulty accessing a clean, safe water supply on a daily basis. And by 2050, more than half the world’s population could be living in water-stressed regions due to the impact of climate change and droughts, urbanisation as well as conflict and war.
Water safety and sustainability are more fragile than we think. There is no plan B when it comes to water goals, and failure is not an option. We are all part of the solution and technology will help us get there faster. Sustainability means rethinking how we do things, and doing them smarter and with greater transparency. Collaborating with stakeholders in a connected digital twin environment will help us learn from the past, make better decisions today, and create a better future for all.