How Can Data & Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Optimize and Improve Wastewater Treatment Systems?

Treating wastewater is essential to protecting both public health and the environment. Most businesses and homes send their wastewater to a treatment plant where pollutants are removed from the water.


Wastewater treatment facilities in the US can process approximately 34 billion gallons of wastewater every day.


Some wastewater and water plants in the U.S. suffer from aging or underdeveloped infrastructures. In tandem with rehabilitating these infrastructures, managers are also implementing predictive maintenance to increase efficiency, manage costs, and minimize worker injuries.

What is a wastewater treatment system?

Wastewater treatment is a complex process that has remained generally consistent for the last 100 years. Apart from the biological and physical processes, the chemical treatment of wastewater is the third and the most crucial part of wastewater treatment and sewage processing practices. Typical operations include processing effluent or sewage through various stages of comprehensive chemical treatment. The treatment includes pH neutralization, flocculation, coagulation, ion exchange, and oxidation.


The goal is to produce recycled or cleaner treated water. As a relatively new development, using data, analytics, and AI can help utilities and wastewater processors provide efficient water and sewer services to the communities and stakeholders.

Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in wastewater treatment

AI refers to the embedding of intelligence in physical and mechanical devices. Algorithms and machine learning are the two essential parts of AI. It has its application in almost all spheres of life. For example, AI can resolve limitations related to sanitation and clean water. It also helps maintain municipalities and utilities related to sanitation and clean water.


Apart from this, AI helps to innovate services related to sanitation and water deliverability. AI technologies help to build water-intensive industries. It helps to actively and efficiently monitor water quality. It also helps reduce the cost incurred during the setup of water treatment facilities.


Water treatment plants help to eliminate toxic chemicals from the wastewater, making the wastewater safe for reuse. However, these treatment plants face many challenges like high energy bills, costly chemicals, inefficient operations, and the risk for compliance violations. AI can assist plant manager to run these facilities as efficiently as possible and keep operational expenses at a manageable level. Here are several specific ways that AI can help…

Improves the effluent quality

Wastewater and sewage must be properly treated before they can be discharged into tributaries and freshwater bodies so that humans aren’t exposed to significant health risks and the environment isn’t harmed. To ignore rules and regulations about effluence carries significant compliance fines. AI helps ensure that wastewater/sewage effluent is treated to the required sanitation levels before being discharged.

Detection of toxic organisms

AI helps to detect the presence of bacteria and other toxic organisms in the water. ‘Internet of Things’ devices help detect harmful particles and dangerous organisms. Different countries can apply different AI filters according to chemical and topographic needs.

Flow cytometry

Flow cytometry is a technology that rapidly analyzes single cells or particles as they flow past lasers while suspended in a liquid solution. Each particle is carefully analyzed, and its characteristics can be known rapidly. This microbial intelligence is then fed into the overall liquid analysis system to inform future steps.

Ground-level analysis

AI technologies help in groundwater level analysis and flood management. As this technology has advanced, it has shown better results and has replaced traditional models.

Role of data and analytics to improve industrial wastewater operations

If you are a manager of industrial or manufacturing operations, you know how crucial it is to understand each aspect of operating processes and its impact on the bottom line. Wastewater treatment may not immediately come up as a ‘make or break’ component in an industrial or manufacturing operation. However, by paying attention to water quality at your industrial site (given the rising cost of water), it pays to optimize your wastewater treatment. This will improve business outcomes and reduce costs.


Optimizing wastewater treatment at your site may not mean an expensive equipment upgrade. With the right tools, you can use current operational data to identify ways and see trends to improve wastewater treatment performance.

Learn from your data with analytics

An integrated analytical program that collects raw data over time and generates reports is an invaluable tool for your business. The reports can summarize the data and produce graphs showing trends. Looking at each specific element of the treatment system makes the data helpful. Below are the five areas through which predictive analysis can help you gain a better understanding.


First, you can see what equipment is not operating as efficiently as it can. If you have machines that are down for maintenance or are running too slowly, it can cost you money. It also impacts your wastewater throughput and can snarl treatment processing schedules.


Second, you can easily track flow rates and energy usage. These may ebb and flow based on the volume being processed and the time of day. If equipment operates routinely at the same speed all day, they may be wasting energy. You can cut energy costs by creating smart systems that accommodate lows and highs.


Third, you can see details about chemical usage, to be sure they’re not being over-or under-used. This will help right-size your chemical costs while also meeting requirements for water quality before release from the processing facility.


Fourth, you can analyze the wastewater and check to see if there are any better ways to clean or reuse it for release into the environment. Recycling wastewater is one of the best ways to keep costs down.


Fifth, you’ll see regular reports on your equipment, its efficiency, and where it is in its lifecycle. For example, if one pump breaks down often and needs expensive maintenance routinely, you can see the extra money and time spent on the repairs. You can then judge whether it’s worth keeping or if a replacement would ultimately be more efficient.

Method of collecting wastewater data

With proper technology and sensors being more affordable and efficient, many companies see the value of investing in analytical programs for their operations. Placing the sensors in key points of the wastewater process is standard. Controllers and operators use the collected data in real-time to keep the process running efficiently. For example, membrane filters often have sensors placed before and after the filtration process. This can help to monitor critical parameters like Total Suspended Solids (TSS).

Analytics to optimize the treatment process

Analytics can help you contrast and compare wastewater treatment systems across different connected locations, provided your data is integrated across sites. By analyzing data from different facilities with similar wastes and goals, large corporations can make decisions that drive efficiency. Solutions can include improved effluent quality, reduced operator time, and more efficient use of chemicals.

Analytics to expand options for recycling and reusing water

Analytics helps ensure continuous regulatory compliance and expand options for reuse and recycling water. By ensuring that you meet wastewater compliance and water quality standards, you will save money and avoid fines or needing to re-process batches that were not handled correctly the first time.

How CWE uses data and analytics in our facilities

Clean Water Environmental uses both tried-and-true processes and technological cutting-edge systems to treat your wastewaters. Our goal is to meet regulatory compliance but also deliver environmentally friendly wastewater treatment services for our customers.


In both of our locations, our various processing units feed us data that allow the systems to be fine-tuned for maximum efficiency, and which have provided many of our home-grown engineering ideas to design new and unique processing systems. Here are our current units:

  • Mansfield: thin-film thermal evaporators
  • Dayton: DAF (Dissolved Air Flotation) unit and chemical batch treatment tanks
  • Dayton: a unique dual evaporation/distillation thermal system, the first of its kind to combine these 2 treatment processes into a single configuration
  • Dayton: MBR (Membrane Biological Reactor), our newest expansion to handle wastewater with higher ammonia or organic levels

In addition, our full-service analytical laboratory includes physical and chemical capabilities. The extensive procedures running in the laboratory can pinpoint the most effective treatment and identify any variance that might cause improper processing.


As an industry leader, we’ve worked hard to bring an array of different wastewater treatment technologies to market. This allows us to bring our clients peace of mind, knowing that their waste is handled in the best possible way – efficiently and responsibly.

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