AU Focus: Digitizing Design and Operations for Water Infrastructure

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Water is the original infrastructure. It’s the element people must have access to, the resource we have always sought to manage—from the first human settlements to today’s largest megacities.  

Today, water management can mean many things. It means capturing and distributing fresh water for consumption and industry, as well as treating and disposing of wastewater.  It means controlling groundwater such as rivers, lakes, and springs, managing sea level and mitigating rainstorms. From dams, canals, and irrigation systems to water mains, sewer networks, and treatment plans, we may not always think about water management, but there’s no part of our infrastructure that’s more essential.  

And with the global population growing and climate change bringing a range of unpredictable effects to water supplies, the choices we make in water management have never been more important. A quarter of people around the world lack consistent access to safe drinking water. And the infrastructure that we use for water is, in many cases, aging. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 240,000 water main breaks each year contribute to the loss of more than $7 billion in treated water.  

New digitized approaches are creating new possibilities for how we manage water, enabling us to better conserve the water we have, maintain and optimize the systems in place, and build better, more resilient systems for the years ahead. Build your skills and expand your understanding with these AU sessions.  

Planning and prevention 

Water flows downhill—that we all know. But beyond that, understanding how water will behave in terms of flow, drainage, and flooding gets complicated fast. Physics-based modeling can help. InfoWorks ICM provides integrated catchment modeling for rivers, sewer systems, runoff, and overland flooding, helping teams understand what can happen under varying conditions, so they can design and build appropriate infrastructure and develop mitigation plans for every scenario.  

The team from Schettini Engenharia share their work redesigning and rebuilding the dam at Brazil’s Ayrton Senna Park after a rupture due to flooding. They used InfoWorks ICM in combination with Recap, Civil 3D, and Navisworks to create a resilient solution that will ensure a secure future for the rural community of Caarapó.  

After a large service failure at one of their master meter feeds in 2018, the city of Livonia, Michigan developed an emergency response plan for a range of possible future disruptions using hydraulic modeling in InfoWater Pro and ArcGIS. Susan Knepper of OHM Advisors and Tim Medearis of Autodesk walk you through their process.  

InfoDrainage provides a platform to design and optimize drainage projects. William Neuhauser, Chad Qualley, and Ryan Brown share their process for designing basins for a 5000-lot subdivision in Colorado, including pipes, swales, and more.  

New Orleans is a city in the crosshairs of climate change. Sitting at the mouth of the Mississippi River, most of the city is below sea level. Civil engineers and architects featured in the film, The New Possible, join host Christina Fisher for a panel discussion of their pioneering work to keep the city and its residents safe.  

Water management with digital twins 

There’s a lot of talk about digital twins these days. The reality is that we’re only just beginning to put the possibilities for digital twins into practice in industry. That means now is the time to put a digital twin strategy in place.  

For those not familiar, digital twins are digital counterparts to real-world systems, created by combining intelligent 3D models with real-time data from sensors, with optional layers for analysis, simulation, prediction, and ultimately automation. They create a two-way exchange between the real and digital worlds that help us manage assets better in the real one.  


Given the unique challenges of water management, digital twins offer unique value. The Info360 platform from Autodesk provides a cloud-based operational digital twin for water utilities. Info360 Insight provides operational analytics for water networks, while Info360 Plant provides a platform for water and wastewater treatment. Info360 Asset is the platform for asset management, including everything from the treatment facilities to the pipes in your network.  

Mike Pennell introduces you to the possibilities of the entire Info360 platform and highlights what’s possible with an operational digital twin, which combines real-time IoT monitoring with operational analytics, machine learning, AI, and simulation to help you optimize your operations and the entire water processing cycle, from source to discharge. 

Patrick Bonk, Mike Pennell, and others go further into the possibilities of the Info360 platform, demonstrating use cases from Australia and New Zealand that show how operational digital twins can help you understand your historical data, respond to incidents and outages in the present, and prepare for the future.  

Learn more about the possibilities for digitizing processes for water management on the Civil Infrastructure page of the AU website.