“AI is just one of many tools a water utility may choose to use, and although many currently choose not to, they are open to the idea,” BYU researchers say.
In recent years, a vision has been shared of how artificial intelligence can optimize drinking water utilities and other complex infrastructure systems. For example, AI can recognize patterns in live facility data and suggest optimal solutions for human operators to approve. But do water utilities really use such technology?
CCE students Alyson Rapp and Annelise Capener, advised by Dr. Rob Sowby, explore the issue in a new article.
“Although AI impacts many industries and its potential applications to drinking water services are well researched, actual uptake among water utilities is limited,” they conclude from their survey of 49 large U.S. water utilities. Less than a quarter reported using AI and “those uses have been experimental or manual analyses rather than full-scale, ongoing applications.”
Water utilities seem interested in AI but acknowledge that several barriers need to be overcome first.
“Respondents were largely motivated by the leak detection and water quality potential of AI, [but] concerns about finding AI expertise and return on the investment were the most frequently mentioned barriers,” the article continues.
Rapp, Capener, and Sowby say the water industry largely gets by without AI, but that with further proving, it may be useful.
“AI is just one of many tools a water utility may choose to use, and although many currently choose not to, they are open to the idea.”