Pipelife Co-Creates One of Europe's Largest Digital Twins for a Water Network

22. March 2024 | 6 min read

In the face of increasingly frequent heatwaves, droughts, aging infrastructure, and rising pollution, water utilities and technology providers across Europe have embarked on a journey of exploring and implementing cutting-edge digital twin solutions. 

Among these pioneering efforts, Brabant Water N.V. — a Dutch water utility catering to 2.6 million inhabitants as well as providing potable water for industrial applications in the province of Noord-Brabant — is set to implement one of Europe's largest digital twins for its water supply network alongside technology providers and key partners such as Pipelife. This initiative will empower the company with a deeper understanding of its systems, enabling optimized operations, streamlined maintenance and reduced costs, while taking sustainable and resilient water management practices to the next level.

Pipelife Co-Creates One of Europe's Largest Digital Twins

Harnessing the Power of Digital Twins

Brabant Water N.V., one of the largest water suppliers in the Netherlands, maintains an extensive network covering 18,000 kilometers. With a steadfast commitment to sustainability and customer satisfaction, the company prioritizes optimizing operations, embracing innovative technologies, and fostering sustainable water management practices. It comes as no surprise that in response to challenges such as densifying and aging underground infrastructure and increasing temperatures, Brabant Water decided to find solutions with the help of a digital representation of its systems.  

"The digital twin is important in a number of different ways. First of all, it enhances our understanding of what is actually happening in our network. This enables us to have greater control, adjust to short and long-term changes, and optimize our operations. The digitization will also help to automate and safeguard the expertise of our individual employees, making it systematically available for all our users," explains Hanneke van de Ven, Sector Director of Distribution at Brabant Water.

Brabant Water also recognized the pivotal role a digital representation would play in addressing possible water losses from pipe leakages. While significant pipe ruptures resulting from activities like excavation are promptly detected, small cracks in aging pipes can go unnoticed for extended periods. Through continuous monitoring of water pressure across the network, the company would be able to narrow down areas of water loss to identify sections that require replacement or repair. This proactive approach enables timely interventions and enhances the efficiency of water distribution.

Pipelife Co-Creates One of Europe's Largest Digital Twins

A Digital Future Based on Partnership

Pipelife Netherlands has been a trusted supplier of pipe systems to Brabant Water for over two decades, fostering a long-standing business partnership. However, a shift occurred when Pipelife introduced its water-probing device, SmartProbe, through pilot projects in the Dutch market. The collaborative process with Pipelife, including SmartProbe test phases, enabled Brabant Water to identify critical measurements, establish priorities, and accelerate the implementation of its digital twin. For Brabant Water, this elevated Pipelife from a supplier to a creative partner — forging an even stronger relationship.

"Our vision at Pipelife has always been centered around collaboration and partnerships. Working closely with Brabant Water and leveraging their valuable feedback, the team was able to revolutionize our offerings and tailor them to meet the specific needs of water suppliers. This partnership has transcended the traditional supplier-client relationship, allowing the team to co-create innovative solutions that drive the digital transformation of water management," says Aart Jan van der Meijden, Managing Director at Pipelife Netherlands.

Pipelife Co-Creates One of Europe's Largest Digital Twins

Installing Data Points

Brabant Water's digitalization project is being executed in several stages. The initial phase focuses on the creation of a digital twin, utilizing a network of data points that cover an 18,000-kilometer area within the supply network. In August 2024, the installation of over 700 Pipelife SmartProbe units will commence, enabling the transmission of real-time data to their platform. These data points will be operational in all 100 district-metered areas (DMA) of the network by the end of 2025. Upon completion, with the integration of additional data sources such as smart water meters and sensors measuring flow, SCADA and GIS, Brabant Water will gain a comprehensive understanding of its network, enabling:

  • Real-time monitoring of water consumption

  • Simulation capabilities for optimization 

  • Rapid detection of service interruptions

  • Enhanced insights through smart water metering

  • Remote asset control capabilities

  • Support for asset management, maintenance and operations 

  • Robust cyber security measures

"Thanks to Pipelife's modular sensor solution, we will soon be collecting real-time data about the status of our network and the water that flows through it. This gives us up-to-date insights and an incredible amount of information with which we can further optimize our processes," states Rob van Dongen, CEO at Brabant Water.

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