The Italian job: Using geospatial AI to improve water asset performance

HERA Group, an Italian multi-utility, has adopted innovative tools based on artificial intelligence (AI) to target maintenance and detection activities across its pipeline network. Using a complex assessment of pipe failure risk and its consequences, HERA is pushing Italy’s ancient water system into a digital future.

Home to the Galvanina spring, Rimini in north eastern Italy has been famed for its water since Roman times. The city is still known for its water, but today that fame comes from its pioneering approach to water innovation.

Italy’s water system is plagued with significant losses. It is estimated that more than 40% of all the drinking water in the country’s national distribution network is lost to leakage. Inevitably this scale of loss comes at a considerable cost, some figures put this at more than €4 billion (US$4.88 billion) annually.

Headquartered in Bologna, Italian multi-utility HERA manages more than 35,000km of water distribution network and the entire water cycle system with more than 400 drinking water treatment plants. In a bid to reduce the level of losses, HERA adopted an approach to predicting where pipeline failures are likely to occur using Rezatec’s Pipeline Risk product. This tool allows the HERA engineering team to potentially identify twice as many leaks compared to previous methods. It allows the company to focus its investment where it is most needed and improve its productivity.

Understanding pipeline failure risks
The journey to accurate failure forecasting began in 2015 when the company began searching for innovative ways to reduce its pipeline losses.

Maurizia Brunetti, water supply technical coordination manager at HERA, said: “In 2015, we started a collaboration with the University of Bologna to understand if the age, diameter or material or our pipes were the only factors that could influence the risk of breakage. We wanted to find the factors that influenced the risk of breaks in our pipelines because we thought it wasn’t only intrinsic factors that were affecting our network but also extrinsic factors.”

The full article is published on the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia Jul/Aug 2021 issue. To continue reading the article, click here.