SaaS for microbial water quality management in drinking water networks

Published on 2023-12-12

Startup Story

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Explore AquaAlarm's CEO illuminating discussion on revolutionizing water infrastructure management through transformative technologies.


About Aqua Alarm

At Aqua Alarm, our inception stemmed from a pivotal moment when a Norwegian water utility sought a resolution for ongoing issues within its distribution networks. Drawing from my extensive background in ensuring safety within large-scale corporations, particularly in the oil and gas industry, the transition to addressing water infrastructure challenges was a natural evolution. 

Our focus revolves around empowering water utilities, managing distribution networks, addressing health risks originating from tap water consumption, and mitigating the operational and financial burdens caused by inefficiencies and uncertainties in network operations. The pressing need for real-time monitoring and effective problem-solving led to the birth of Aqua Alarm, dedicated to revolutionizing water infrastructure management and ensuring safer, more efficient water distribution systems.

Evolving Challenges in Water Monitoring: Aqua Alarm's Perspective

The complexity underlying water management issues is profound, straddling social concerns and environmental repercussions. The stagnation in the water industry's control over these challenges can be attributed to a reliance on archaic methodologies—predominantly relying on century-old technology mandated by regulatory frameworks. Regulations stipulate the collection of samples, an approach that, while effective in its time, presents glaring inefficiencies in today's fast-evolving society. The delay in laboratory results, often received post-consumption, renders this method inadequate for real-time intervention. This starkly contrasts with advancements seen in other industries like food, which have embraced more agile and proactive systems long ago. Moreover, with climate change exacerbating these issues, the need for comprehensive change in water monitoring methodologies has become pressing. Current sampling methods resemble taking a mere fraction of a vast swimming pool weekly, leaving the remainder unmonitored and potentially hazardous—a reality that necessitates urgent modernization in water monitoring practices.

Aqua Alarm's Innovative Approach: Revolutionizing Water Management

Indeed, regulatory constraints have restrained the adoption of advanced      
technologies despite their availability for optimizing water quality and infrastructure control. At Aqua Alarm, our solution serves as a complementary addition to existing regulations, acknowledging the inevitable pace of regulatory change while empowering water utilities in real-time. Our technology isn't aimed at altering regulations immediately; rather, it fortifies existing mandates, anticipating that our technological advancements will ultimately play a pivotal role in influencing regulatory updates.

In conceptualizing our solution, assembling a team with multifaceted expertise was critical. Partnering with our first lead investor, Thron Berg, a former      
General Manager at Accenture Norway, proved instrumental. Recognizing the complexity inherent in distribution networks, we scouted for an industry specialist who could navigate this intricate landscape. Dr. Homan, our CTO, with a remarkable background encompassing a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience in the UK's water management sector, emerged as an invaluable asset. His profound insights, derived from working at Thames Water overseeing parts of London's water quality, fueled our approach, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

Our technology unravels the labyrinthine world beneath our feet, deciphering the interactions within distribution networks. By leveraging data analysis, we detect fluctuations in pressure, foresee potential complications due to altered flow patterns, and predict the behavior of microscopic elements like biofilm—a vital yet often overlooked component within pipelines. Our bespoke sensors, although not pinpoint precise, offer sensitive indications of bacterial shifts, amalgamating this data with diverse utility information such as flow rates, pipeline age, temperature, customer complaints, and more. This amalgamation serves as the bedrock for our predictive data model, enabling us to offer utilities actionable insights without inundating them with complex sensor readings or intricate algorithms. 

This intricate yet comprehensible system we've cultivated, while challenging, is less complex than vast IT security solutions monitoring numerous environments. Our focus remains steadfast on empowering water utilities with actionable intelligence, optimizing decisions around maintenance, cleaning protocols for pipes and reservoirs, and ensuring proactive responses to potential water quality issues—all geared toward enhancing the efficiency and safety of water distribution networks.

Environmental Influence: Mitigating Climate Impact in Water Management

The environmental implications within the intricate network of pipelines and      
biofilm growth present a critical challenge, one that demands keen oversight. Our primary focus revolves around navigating this complex scenario, offering      
indispensable guidance to water utilities, ensuring that climate-induced changes don't amplify health risks or escalate chemical usage. The prevalent practice of excessive chlorination, a reactionary measure due to inadequate information, can be curbed through our intervention. Equipping utilities with vital insights allows for a reduction in chemical usage, a logical and crucial step towards a safer, more sustainable approach. Moreover, our collaboration with channel partners extends to bolstering efforts in leakage reduction—a key facet in minimizing energy consumption, water wastage, and CO2 emissions.

Reducing leakages doesn't just stem water loss; it significantly curtails energy-intensive processes like water purification and transportation, consequently mitigating CO2 emissions. By aiding in ensuring the safety of old or stagnant water trapped due to valve closures during leakage repair, we play a pivotal role in safeguarding public health. This multifaceted approach ultimately drives towards decreased chemical usage, lowered CO2 emissions, and, most importantly, countless lives saved—a testament to our core objectives in fostering a safer, more environmentally conscious water management system.

Impact in Action: Resolving Critical Water Zone Challenges

Our solution typically engages with water utilities facing challenges within specific areas of their distribution network—what we term "water zones". Engagements often begin through our collaboration with channel partners who bring forward critical issues requiring resolution. Upon analysis, we offer our software as a service, leveraging our technological arsenal—sensors, AI, and more—yet presenting the utility with a user-friendly software interface. Pricing is based on a performance-based model, with fees calculated at 30 percent of the savings achieved for the customer. This approach not only ensures cost-efficiency for utilities but also incentivizes proactive problem-solving, potentially saving expenses incurred due to fines, excessive chemical use, overtime, or unnecessary pipe replacements.

Our engagement model resonates well within the industry. We've developed our technology in close collaboration with various water organizations, receiving continual feedback and insights from stakeholders across different regions. Presently, we just signed a contract and starting up immediately with a UK utility serving 3 million individuals and a significant Brazilian utility catering to an 11 million-strong population about which will start up in Q1 2024.

The endorsements and collaborations we've secured underscore a widespread      
acknowledgment of our understanding of the problem at hand and the belief that Aqua Alarm occupies a unique position in delivering tailored, effective solutions. The resounding message from these stakeholders: "Come and help us—we believe in your capability to solve our challenges." This reaffirms our commitment to revolutionizing water management on a global scale.

Navigating the Unpredictable Path

Throughout our journey, unforeseen hurdles have been our most formidable      
adversaries. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our plans      
significantly. Initially poised to deploy our solutions in a large Spanish city,      
collaboration and groundwork were already in progress, yet the pandemic thwarted these efforts. Nevertheless, we swiftly adapted, redirecting our focus to Norway and Sweden, ensuring continuity in our developmental strides.

Presently, navigating financial challenges has been a lingering obstacle, stalling progress on significant projects like the UK deployment. While frustrating, this phase of cautious financial management has temporarily slowed our pace. Securing funding for such pivotal initiatives has been a waiting game, an unfortunate reality amidst cautious spending in today's climate. However, despite the delays, the demand for our solution remains palpable, underscoring a market clamoring for our intervention.

The launch of the UK project stands as a testament to our resilience. Though hindered by financial constraints, we remained resolute in our belief in the evident market need for our solution. Now, with the two large contracts in place, we have a good group of investors which has expressed strong interest in the SEED round launching early Q1 2024. We are proud and happy with this breakthrough and look forward to executing!

About the author

Hasse Storebakken

Founder & CEO at Aqua Alarm AS