Never Stronger: Autodesk’s Commitment to a More Secure Water Future

Categories: AEC Sustainability in AEC Infrastructure
Tags: digital-twins water

A year ago this week, Autodesk acquired Innovyze. Our $1 billion investment in Innovyze reflected the value we believe technology brings to water infrastructure and our deep commitment to a more secure water future. A quarter of the global population lives in countries experiencing high water stress, meaning demand outstrips availability. More than 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking-water sources. In both developed and developing nations, aging infrastructure fails to make the most of this most precious resource. Nine trillion gallons of water are lost each year to leaks and pipe breaks.

To meet the scale of this challenge, incremental improvements are not enough. The world needs a combination of technology, partnerships, and policies to accelerate progress on a global scale. In the year since Innovyze joined the Autodesk family, I am proud of the contributions we have made toward shoring up a future where water is safe, accessible, and preserved for all.

Innovating to maximize resources

Prior to joining Autodesk, the Innovyze team had a 35-year record of pushing the industry toward more sustainable water stewardship; they are not slowing down. Last summer, Innovyze expanded the Info360 cloud platform with Info360 Asset, a digital twin platform for the water industry’s condition and performance monitoring and risk assessment processes. Info360 Asset makes sense of vast amounts of asset data—from pipes to valves and pumps—helping prioritize cleaning, repairs, replacements, and inspections. Innovyze has shown repeatedly that better data management leads to better water management—an essential strategy for maximizing water resources at scale.

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We saw it with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), which used asset management software to create a proactive maintenance program, prioritizing pipes most in need in the near term. This system replaces an approach commonly used by utilities—one that relies on guesswork or even worse, failure before fixing. The program has doubled Seattle’s pipe inspection rates, with more than 90% being assessed by this year, and paints a compelling story about the effective use of public dollars. SPU has secured increased funding for six years and the asset management program enabled them to project capital improvement needs for the next 40 years.

Innovyze software shows digital model of Seattle Public Utilities water assets

A global response to a global problem

Over the past year, I have been encouraged to see increasing collaboration and partnerships around solving our water challenges. Autodesk recently joined the US Water Alliance, an organization that convenes a diverse group of water champions working towards a sustainable future for all. On the global stage, Autodesk leaders attended COP26, the United Nations’ climate change conference, where Autodesk shined a spotlight on the need for resilient infrastructure.

Global public officials, the scientific community, and the private sector agree global warming is happening, and increasingly volatile weather is our future. We now need intelligent infrastructure that can withstand and respond to the impacts of our changing environment.

In Colorado, Denver Water saw the need to optimize operational controls over drinking water to serve an urban area where droughts, other weather events, and population are all growing. Historically, system models focused on worst-case scenarios that might map to a few days of the year. Denver Water partnered with Innovyze to develop hydraulic models that reflect accurate conditions in the field every day. With these real-time models, operators can set optimal conditions for meeting customer demand while preserving energy. In the era of climate change, water and energy conservation measures are not nice-to-have, they are a must-have.

The time is now for policy action

The collective will to address our water systems has translated into progress in the U.S. with the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law finalized last year. As President Biden said in his State of the Union speech, we are in an infrastructure decade, with the potential to transform our economy with modern, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure. He also committed to clean water for every American—which we wholeheartedly support, and which requires upgrading the way we manage our water systems. We will continue to advocate for policies that increase the use of digital tools to improve water resource management, including:

  • Federal funding with flexibility provided to states, localities, and utilities to leverage technology to innovate and improve upon water infrastructure design, construction, and management methods
  • Support for states, local governments, and utilities to develop and maintain digital asset management plans to give water managers the data needed to streamline systems management and enhance sustainability
  • Federal guidance and education on use of smart water tools to prevent or resolve Clean Water Act and other regulatory violations
  • And prioritization of digital water tools to monitor and adjust water distribution in real-time to mitigate drought impacts and manage limited resources

Technology, partnerships, and policy: we must have all three to secure our water future. I live in California, where the effects of drought drive home for me, every day, the importance of making the most of our water resources. At Autodesk, we are more committed than ever to this mission and understand that our planet, communities, and lives depend on it.