Water quality monitoring using the SWAN

Water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs and rivers are an integral part of population centres. Communities depend on them for multiple purposes, including food, agriculture, and leisure activities; and more importantly, they can be the primary sources of drinking water. Any event that disrupts these water bodies, such as pollution or an algae bloom, can have a large impact on lives and the ecosystem as a whole. Therefore, there is a need to monitor the waters proactively on a regular basis, so that issues can be detected and addressed early.

Challenges in water quality monitoring
Conventional methods used for water quality monitoring can be time-consuming and labour-intensive. These methods often require personnel to travel to the site to measure water quality parameters and collect samples for laboratory analysis. In the event of bad weather or site hazards, such methods may pose risk to the personnel or cause delays in acquiring data. The use of automated fixed stations that measure water parameters at a few selected locations may alleviate some of these issues, but such stations lack mobility and their measurements may not always be representative of the entire water body.

New challenges such as climate change and labour shortages have surfaced in recent years. According to studies, observed increases in harmful algae blooms (HAB) have been linked to the effects of global warming. HAB adversely impacts drinking water systems and public health, if contaminated water is consumed. Worldwide labour shortages have been attributed to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This combination of such factors puts a strain on resources that can be dedicated to water quality monitoring.

As water plays a crucial role in our lives, there is a growing need to face these challenges by improving the operational efficiency of water quality management. Water utility companies have been starting to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and numerical simulations to improve their operations planning and decision-making. Such methods rely heavily on data, and hence the adoption of smart monitoring solutions to provide high-quality data is essential. Smart monitoring solutions tap on cloud technology to collect water quality data remotely, increasing the efficiency of data collection, reducing the reliance on manpower, and putting the data in the hands of decision-makers in a timely manner.

The full article is available on the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia Jan/Feb 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.