CASE STUDY: Data links Covid-19 lockdowns to consumption change
Utilities Coronavirus Covid-19 Europe

CASE STUDY: Data links Covid-19 lockdowns to consumption change

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Producing real-time information

An increase in home-working, school closures and social restrictions are having a significant impact on millions of people around the world.

Another area being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic is water consumption.

A recent analysis was carried out on water consumption pattern changes in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany.

This showed how Covid-19 related societal changes are directly impacting when and how much water people are consuming.

A rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in early March prompted the German government to take further measures.

In the state of Baden-Württemberg, schools were closed on March 17, with other measures being progressively toughened to restrict even more social activities and public life.

Water utility Stadtwerke Karlsruhe (SWKA) serves a region with more than 400,000 inhabitants in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Using the WatEner Platform from the Spanish company, the Inclam Group, SWKA integrated measured and simulated data from different sources, producing information in real-time.

By comparing four consecutive Tuesdays during March, showing before and after lockdown measures were in place, variations in water consumption can be observed.

CASE STUDY: Data links Covid-19 lockdowns to consumption change

A change in consumption behaviour is observed (fig.2) before containment measures (blue lines) and after school closure and social restrictions (green lines).

A delay to peak water demand

“The slope of consumption curve at the beginning of the day is higher under normal situation (before Covid-19 measures) and lower after the measures were adopted, with a demand peak that occurred approximately two hours later,” said Jorge Helmbrecht, general manager at WatEner (Inclam Group).

Furthermore, the demand peak in the morning is also delayed under lockdown conditions.

As can be seen below (fig.3), in early March, the demand peak occurs in the first case, around 7.10 am, when schools are open during normal behaviour.

However, later in the month, this shifts to 9.40 am under lockdown measures, which is more akin to consumption behaviour during the weekends.

According to the general manager, water consumption is also flattened out over the course of the day, with more people staying in their homes.

“In a situation of confinement, consumption is distributed more gradually in the morning, reducing slowly until the afternoon,” he added.

CASE STUDY: Data links Covid-19 lockdowns to consumption change

Impacts on forecast demand

Water utilities around the world are proactively communicating around the Covid-19 pandemic, with some even claiming 97 per cent of their workforce are working remotely.

So what does the data from this analysis mean for the German water utility?

The Demand Forecast System (DFS) used applies Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Pattern Recognition Techniques, adapting to meteorological parameters, as well as changes in consumer behaviour.

By analysing the period March 1-24, the AI system adjusts to the changing pattern in consumption behaviour caused by the Covid-19 emergency.

In short: the demand forecast is adjusted automatically.

“The system can adapt quickly to the new consumption patterns, providing a precise demand forecast using algorithms without the need for manual inputs," adds Helmbrecht.

CASE STUDY: Data links Covid-19 lockdowns to consumption change

The first day of school closing and lockdown measures (March 17) shows a steeper slope in the forecasted demand (as expected in a typical Tuesday of March) than the real demand.

After a week (Tuesday, March 24), the DFS has more information to automatically adjust the forecast to the new consumer behaviour, showing a smoother slope and curve shape similar to the real demand.

Helmbrecht concludes that despite the recognised patterns, more data is still needed and he is working on a more detailed study.

“A more in-depth analysis and more data are probably needed to draw wider conclusions on demand changes related to the Covid-19 lockdown situation,” he said.

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