BuntPlanet’s AI Software Helps Reduce Water Losses in Latin America
Dec. 3, 2020 — BuntBrain Water Meters and BuntBrain LeakFinder, innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) software to reduce Water Losses, or Non-Revenue Water (NRW), have been successfully demonstrated in Latin America, with support from the EU Horizon 2020 programme, through the ACCUWATER project.
The ‘big data’-based AI solutions were developed by BuntPlanet – an innovative high-tech start-up based in Donostia / San-Sebastián, Spain.
NRW includes both Physical Losses, or Leakages (water extracted and treated, but not consumed) and Apparent Losses (water consumed but not properly measured and not paid for). NRW represents a major economic challenges in terms of lost revenues for water utilities, costing c. €14 billion annually according to the World Bank. In regions such as Latin America, Apparent Losses make up over two thirds of total NRW and often represent the most acute challenge for water utilities.
Trials of both software modules were rolled out in the water distribution network of Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia SA (ESPH), in Heredia, Costa Rica. BuntBrain Water Meters was also successfully trialled in the network of Empresa Local de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Sucre (ELAPAS) in Bolivia. The modules have now been analysing the performance of both networks for over two years.
BuntBrain Water Meters demonstrated enormous potential to reduce NRW for the Latin American water utilities. An analysis of the performance of the water meters installed in each of the distribution networks was undertaken in order to calculate optimal meter replacement programmes. In both instances, it could be demonstrated that implementation of the replacement programmes would offer large potential for the recovery of water losses by reducing the levels of erroneous measurements from the meters – which in turn generates significantly higher levels of billing and associated revenues.
Deployment of the BuntBrain LeakFinder software facilitated the rapid detection and location of leaks within the ESPH network in Costa Rica, reducing the period during which leaks remained open by between two and three times on average and leading to significant economic savings.
ESPH Engineer, Dwight Sáenz, commented that: “The software not only allows us to implement new technologies, it also encourages us to maintain [our water distribution network] at the standards of first world countries”.
In Sucre, Bolivia, high levels of Water Losses – typically over 30% – are compounded by high levels of water stress and a low level of digitalization of the water network. ELAPAS has praised the ACCUWATER project for enabling the “transfer of modern technology” to the benefit of the City of Sucre and thanked the EU Horizon 2020 fund and Bunt Planet for the opportunity to be included in the programme.
BuntPlanet CEO, Ainhoa Lete commented that: “These Latin American trials have demonstrated the ability of our Artificial Intelligence platform to perform effectively, even in highly challenging environments. Both regions suffer from high levels of NRW, but the BuntBrain software modules adapted to the conditions. The self-learning algorithms successfully dealt with large volumes of diverse data inputs, building upon their AI functionality – a key goal of the ACCUWATER project.”
Based in Donostia / San-Sebastián, Spain, BuntPlanet has developed a suite of dynamic monitoring and decision support software systems to detect and locate NRW within water distribution networks.
BuntBrain LeakFinder is a smart, inexpensive, data analytics solution which combines artificial intelligence, to detect that an irregularity is happening in the network, and hydraulic simulation, for leak positioning. Self-learning algorithms analyse the calibrated hydraulic model and data collected from flow meters, pressure sensors and customer water meters, if available. Its ‘big data’ analysis detects irregularities in flow within pipe networks and locates the position of the irregularities.
BuntBrain LeakFinder is a transparent and accurate tool for a utility to view leakages, at all levels, within the pipe network and prioritise actions. Even very small leaks (<0,5l/s) can be detected rapidly before they can escalate. It can locate the leaks with high accuracy (<300m). It enables water networks to be designed around big DMAs (>15 km pipe length), without losing accuracy – although it also detects leaks within smaller DMAs. The ability to work within a large DMA, unique amongst competing solutions, provides water utilities with the advantage of lower maintenance costs and reduces exposure to risks relating to water quality or supply.
BuntBrain Water Meters is a low-cost software product which collects and processes large volumes of data to monitor and analyse the performance of the meters installed within a water distribution network. Uniquely, it also takes into consideration metrology knowledge i.e. water meter technical data (water meter type, size or measurement error). It combines the analysis of consumption anomalies and water consumption forecasts and uses complex algorithms to indicate the optimal replacement date, the optimal size and most appropriate technology for each water meter.
The water utility gains access to a dashboard displaying a real time ‘score’ of the performance of each individual water meter installed according to a range of metrics. Based on these scores, the software determines the optimal replacement cycle – thereby directly improving the overall efficiency of the network.
Inaccurate readings from water meters are an important contributory factor to the challenge of NRW. However, established solutions are limited in scope and are often not cost effective for water utilities in developing countries.
BuntBrain Water Meters is the only solution available in the market which can address metering inaccuracies and identify meters that may cause losses, and it represents a unique software approach to the challenge of identifying and reducing Apparent Losses.
Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia SA (ESPH) is utility company which provides public lighting, telecommunications, wastewater and sewage, drinking water and electricity services in Heredia. It manages the water distribution network in Heredia, a municipality which forms part of the Greater Metropolitan Area of San José, the Capital City of Costa Rica.
Empresa Local de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Sucre (ELAPAS) is a water utility which manages wastewater and sewage and the drinking water distribution network for the City of Sucre in the Department of Chuquisaca, Bolivia. Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia and the sixth most populated city in Bolivia.