More data driven knowledge could potentially be an important tool for utility companies. PhD fellow Jonas Kirstein is working on a model based on temperature differences in water supply networks. Just returned from five months as an exchange student in Beijing, he is preparing to publish his first work.

PhD fellow Jonas Kirstein researches utilization of data from water supply networks.

Vast amounts of data is being collected from drinking water networks in Denmark. Within recent years, utility companies have increased the installation of data collecting devices throughout their distribution networks. The purpose of this data collection is to improve systems operation and to help secure drinking water safety even further.

However, it can be quite a challenge for utilities to figure out how to analyze and operationalize the huge volumes of data. What to look for – and how to turn numbers into knowledge and take the step from knowledge to action.

This is the purpose of Danish Jonas Kirstein’s PhD research project. To help utility companies become more data driven and thereby achieve new insights.

“A general objective of my PhD is to find out what temperature measurements can be used for, such as identifying valves that are not opened or closed as assumed by the utility. Other goals could be to improve temperature models to predict the water temperature in the network and to identify places exposed to high temperatures which affect the water quality,” says Jonas Kirstein.

A temperature model providing overview

In his PhD project Jonas Kirstein collaborates with the major Danish utility company Novafos, the engineering consultancy company NIRAS as well as his supervising professor at DTU – Technical University of Denmark. The three of them – Novafos, NIRAS and DTU – are all partners in the LEAKman joint partnership.

The LEAKman project is initiated to demonstrate Danish solutions for limiting drinking water loss and pave the way for new technology. Read more about the partnership here.

And so, with data provided from Novafos – the second largest utility in Denmark – and specialist mentoring from NIRAS and DTU, Jonas explores and analyses temperature variations in Novafos’ water supply network.

The purpose is to develop a model to help utility companies keep track of their valves. This could potentially be an important tool for handling a contamination event in a water supply network, Jonas explains:

“In case of a contamination event, it is very important for utilities to know which valves are opened or closed. Only by having an up-to-date knowledge about the status of the valves, the utility is capable of tracking the flow of the contaminant correctly and can warn the affected households about polluted water.”

Quality assurance

However, becoming a data driven utility is not a walk in the park. Data validity and integrity testing is a lesser-applied process step in water systems operation. As the collected data can suffer from errors that can severely reduce its value, it is necessary to quality assure the data automatically and in real time to avoid long periods with erroneous data.

“Most applications and studies within distribution system modelling assume flawless data. But, what if the collected data represents true extremes? For utility companies growing data-dependency requires maintenance of high data integrity and monitoring of data validity,” says Jonas Kirstein.

Five months in Beijing

During summer of 2017 Jonas Kirstein went to China as a part of his PhD program. As an exchange student in Beijing – at the prestigious Tsinghua University – he became part of a research environment completely different from what he knew from ‘home’ – Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

He worked in a research group with expertise in modeling water distribution systems and processing data from water supply networks. Here, he was mentored by one of the leading researchers within this field, Professor Shuming Liu.

“We were 13 students in the research group. All sitting in a 20 square meters office. Even though we did not have much space, we were like a family – always helping each other on our projects,” says Jonas Kirstein.

“From the many discussions I have had with Professor Shuming Liu and my Danish supervisor, I have come a long way further to improve my temperature model for drinking water supply networks. Now, we expect to publish our work during late 2018.”

As of now, Jonas Kirstein knows China quite well after no less than three exchange programs to the country – during his bachelor, master and latest the PhD research. In spring 2018 he returned to Denmark still working on his PhD research, which he expects to finalize in autumn 2019.

Presenter at NORDIWA 2018 in Oslo

On June 12, Jonas Kirstein will give a presentation on a method which combines well-known and novel data analysis methods to produce an operational time series database for utility companies.

The presentation is called “Is your data correct? Validating and improving data collected in smart water networks” and takes place at the Nordic Drinking Water Conference in Oslo, Norway.

Read more about the presentation here.