Better, Faster, Safer: How New AI Tools Could Transform Water Management for the Better
Find out how the latest wave of AI innovation including tools like ChatGPT will help utilities tackle some of the biggest management challenges of the 21st century.Download
If you follow the technology industry today, you’ve almost certainly heard about how artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming everything from hardware and engineering, to data science and analytics, to everyday tools like search engines and apps.
The water industry has been no exception. Water utilities already use machine learning and other similarly sophisticated data analysis technologies to help with pipe maintenance and leak detection, LSL replacement, contaminant identification and more.
But the latest wave of AI innovation, particularly large language model tools like ChatGPT, promise to bring the fruits of AI out of the laboratory and machine shop into the rest of the utility to help tackle some of the biggest management challenges of the 21st century.
Here we’ll take a look at how water utility managers and administrators could very quickly start using tools like Klir’s ChatGPT integration to streamline and save time on management-related tasks like permitting and compliance, project management, emergency response, planning and more.
In particular, we’ll look at how these tools could be leveraged to remove a lot of the friction surrounding water quality program management, a process that involves gathering and ingesting large amounts of data: an ideal candidate for automation and AI.
The ChatGPT-Driven AI ‘Renaissance’
If you’ve ever performed a Google search or asked Spotify for a music recommendation, you’ve already used algorithms or machine learning, the building blocks of AI, to help you get what you need.
Large language models like ChatGPT, however, are a recent breakthrough that could make those tools easier for non-technology specialists to use and apply to their work.
Unlike nascent AI systems that relied on specific programmed rules, large language models like ChatGPT learn from patterns in data, enabling them to provide more nuanced and contextually relevant information.
ChatGPT, in particular, is designed to generate human-like text responses and engage in interactive conversations, making it an ideal tool for managers, administrators and other workers at the utility with non-technical backgrounds who need quick and accurate answers to management-related queries.
“It finds the most relevant pieces of information, even if it’s millions of documents or data points, and presents the top ranked results to the language model, [which] lets you have detailed, informed interactions with your data,” Microsoft’s head of Azure Cognitive Search Pablo Castro explained during a recent presentation on ChatGPT applications.
Secured with enterprise-grade security in Microsoft Azure, Klir’s own Chat GPT integration gives users the ability to query millions of data points within the utility’s private internal data, all while respecting the information protection controls put in place.
“Because the knowledge lives outside of the ChatGPT model, you’re in control of it, and it’s not used to train the model,” says Castro. “And equally important from an enterprise perspective: any chat session state lives entirely within your application. Whether you keep it or not, and where, is fully up to you.”
How AI can help tackle the problem of 21st-century water management
The management of water resources in the 21st century presents a dizzying number of challenges, with factors like increasing demand, ageing infrastructure, climate change, and stricter regulations all placing additional pressure on our water systems.
AI can play a crucial role in addressing each of these challenges by automating away some of the most arduous administrative tasks that managers must deal with on a day-to-day basis. Some key areas where AI can make a significant impact include:
Whether it’s implementing infrastructure projects like pipeline replacements or capital upgrades, navigating amalgamation and other governance changes, or simply navigating the endless to-do list involved in running a large urban utility, most of the tasks involved in 21st century water utility management requires careful planning and coordination.
A quick, intuitive-to-use AI assistant can help with almost every aspect of project management, whether it be by analyzing historical data, predicting potential bottlenecks, optimizing resource allocation, or providing real-time monitoring and reporting.
A recent study from MIT confirmed that ChatGPT can raise an organization’s average productivity, team morale and collaboration while increasing “job satisfaction and self-efficacy.”
As workers become more comfortable with AI tools, their ability to help streamline projects and deliver them more efficiently will only increase.
Emergency response and planning
When natural disasters or water contamination incidents occur, quick and informed decision-making is crucial. AI-powered tools can process real-time data from sensor networks, work order management software, and even social media to provide early warnings, assess risks, and support decision-making during emergency situations.
One large utility in the UK already uses AI tools to process data from over 7,000 pressure and flow sensors every 15 minutes, enabling operators to reliably detect pipe bursts and leaks within minutes of them occurring.
With intuitive tools like ChatGPT, those insights could be made available to water professionals at the utility, enhancing situational awareness and helping utilities to respond effectively to minimize the impact on water supplies and public health.
Permitting and compliance
Water utility managers are often burdened with complex regulatory requirements and lengthy permitting processes involving countless pages of forms, applications, regulations and reporting deadlines. It isn’t unusual for large urban utilities to manage thousands of individual regulation schedules and permits at a single time, and all too often the burden of managing all of that paperwork can end up falling on the shoulders of a single employee.
With Klir’s ChatGPT integration, a utility worker can alleviate some of that burden by asking the platform to retrieve important data, summarize important deadlines, or even draft an email to a superior explaining why they’re confident they’re in compliance.
The sheer volume of data and paperwork involved in compliance makes it a perfect candidate for automation with AI, which can streamline these tasks by automating document review, analyzing compliance data, and identifying potential issues or discrepancies, saving time, reducing human error, and ensuring adherence to regulatory standards.
Why AI tools are a particularly good fit for water quality programs
Monitoring and maintaining water quality involves numerous complex data-intensive processes, requiring continuous monitoring of various parameters such as pH, turbidity, metals, bacteria and more.
Traditionally these monitoring processes involve manual sampling, laboratory testing, and data analysis, all of which are time-consuming and resource-intensive. Moreover, the vast amount of data generated from monitoring activities makes it challenging to extract actionable insights in a timely manner.
Tools like Klir’s ChatGPT integration can help water quality professionals get to the data they need more quickly, generate quantitative insights into sampling results, identify areas of non-compliance, and save time by simplifying or completely automating away administrative tasks.
Predictive analysis of water quality
AI-powered sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) devices can collect real-time data on water quality parameters, providing a continuous stream of information. This data can be analyzed by AI algorithms to identify trends, predict changes, and detect potential contaminants or hazards. This proactive approach allows utilities to take preventive measures before water quality problems escalate, thus safeguarding public health.
With conversational AI tools, querying that information becomes easier than ever before. Instead of sifting through numerous dashboards, getting the information you need can be as simple as asking ChatGPT for it in the form of a question, e.g.: “hey Klir, where are we likely to get limit exceedances in the next 90 days?”
Integrating administrative tasks with sampling results data
When it comes time to act on important data, AI assistants can help automate the administrative side of water quality management as well.
Instead of sifting through numerous spreadsheets or charts, you might simply ask your AI assistant to “write a formal email response to my manager outlining results of Well 57.”
You might also ask the assistant to let your manager know that your position on those results is that the utility is compliant, or that the results indicate the need to take action. With tools like ChatGPT, you can spend less time digging for data and drafting emails, and more time looking ahead and making sure your department is ready to take on future challenges proactively.
Fast quantitative insights and reporting of non-compliance
Quick: what percentage of lead tests at site #42 have been non-compliant so far this year? With an AI assistant, generating quantitative insights from sampling data and flagging potential non-compliance transforms from a time-consuming, potentially error-prone process into a quick and painless case of asking the system a question.
Respecting internal information controls
When ChatGPT is deployed on an organization’s internal servers, the AI model can learn from your data without the need to ever share it externally, making it easy to respect the utility’s information protection controls and keeping sensitive customer data, infrastructure details, and compliance records safe.
Why AI could represent the next big leap forward in 21st century water utility management
Recent advances in AI technology like ChatGPT holds immense potential for transforming water utility management. By leveraging AI tools, utility managers and administrators can streamline and save time on management-related tasks such as permitting and compliance, project management, emergency response and planning, and specifically supporting water quality programs.
"Our dream is that Klir becomes a member of your team,” says Klir CEO David Lynch. “With help from Klir’s ChatGPT integration, workers at every level of the utility will be able to spend less time dealing with repetitive tasks and more time learning from their peers and tackling the monumental challenges of 21st century water management.”
With the ability to process and analyze vast amounts of data, AI will empower utilities to make more informed decisions, improve operational efficiency, and ultimately ensure the provision of high-quality water services to communities. And as AI continues to advance, the future of water management looks promising, with increased sustainability, resilience, and responsiveness to the challenges of the 21st century.