How AI is Revolutionising Industrial Wastewater Treatment

Effective industrial wastewater treatment is of critical importance across all industries as it helps protect our environment, conserve resources, and improve public health. However, it can be a complex and challenging task, especially as the types of pollutants in wastewater become increasingly varied through innovations in manufacturing and more challenging to remove due to their chemical composition. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been in the news recently as an emerging, powerful tool for improving the industrial wastewater treatment process. While the mention of AI can feel like a gimmick in many sectors, for technology that uses the internet for remote access and 24/7 monitoring (such as our LAT Unit), AI feels like an easy next step, especially as machine learning (ML) is already a big part of predictive modelling. 

How AI can be used in wastewater treatment plants

In modern industrial wastewater treatment plants, artificial intelligence can be used in the following ways:

Optimising treatment processes

AI can quickly analyse large data sets from industrial wastewater treatment plants to identify inefficiencies or areas for operational improvements and optimisation of resources, e.g. reducing power input during specific times of day when inflow is slower, raising the temperature of the plant by a specific amount to lower overall costs, and much more. 

Detecting and preventing problems

One of the key areas where AI excels is in pattern detection – this can help monitor for problems and spot subtle changes in output that may go unnoticed by a human, especially in the early stages. By catching emerging problems early, engineers can learn more about the type of problem and the parts affected – helping reduce downtime and backlogs, improving the overall efficiency of your team, and reducing the cost of repairs by isolating problems before they spread to the rest of the system. Alongside this, issues such as undetected leaks can cause irreversible environmental damage – the quicker these issues are caught, the less impact they are likely to have (as well as reducing your chances of receiving a fine!). 

Developing new treatment technologies 

We mentioned pattern detection above, and another way this can be extremely helpful is in the development of new treatment technologies. AI can assist engineers in developing more efficient methods of removing pollutants from wastewater, helping rapidly address the challenges posed by the varying range of emerging contaminants across different sectors, and helping develop more eco-friendly treatment methods along the way. This is possible as AI can collect data from existing treatment methods and create models with higher efficiency from the data sets at a much faster rate than most engineers and industry experts (however, don’t forget to run the final model by your engineer, as AI can still make mistakes!). 

Improving research and development

AI can be used for more than just optimisation of resources – it’s a great tool for performing continuous scans and monitoring for changes in wastewater contaminants (as well as nutrients), assisting research teams in their efforts to learn more about human health and the effects of materials and substances used across different industries. Part of the reason wastewater treatment is so difficult is that not all solids, liquids, and gases can be extracted in the same way. Depending on other substances in the wastewater, reactions can occur, creating challenges for treatment. The more awareness we have in this area, the better prepared we will be when creating new regulations, standards, and more. 

The future of AI in industrial wastewater treatment

The use of AI in wastewater treatment is still in its early stages, but it has the potential to revolutionise the industry. As AI technology continues to develop, we can expect to see even more innovative applications of AI in wastewater treatment in the years to come in some of the following ways:

Real-time process monitoring

While this may be a new feature for many wastewater treatment plants, our LAT Unit has provided clients with real-time monitoring since the first commercial edition of the plant was installed. However, for many companies, this technology is still far outside of reach which can be costly for their clients as periodic monitoring can be ineffective in fast-paced facilities. AI can help transform operations by enabling more companies to make sense of the data produced by their on-site or off-site treatment plant(s). 

Remote maintenance checks

We briefly mentioned error detection above, but going one step further, AI can replace scheduled maintenance plans with a predictive approach that helps optimise resources beyond just the wastewater treatment plant. E.g. by performing a remote health check of the system instead of visiting in person, it can save engineers time, reduce transport emissions / road congestion, and reduce wait times for support for those who need it more urgently. 

Virtual reality (VR) training

When we think about optimisation, human resources are rarely considered – by using AI together with virtual reality technology, your workforce can benefit from a quicker and more tailored onboarding process which helps users make better sense of how their wastewater treatment plant works, what to do in an emergency, and how to perform a repair as guided by AI or even by a person in real-time. Similar technology has already been used in medicine to help surgeons operate as AI together with VR technology is proving highly effective at reducing stress and risk during high-pressure operations

Crowdsourcing & learning 

Most excitingly, AI can be used to crowdsource data from wastewater treatment plants around the world to improve our understanding of wastewater treatment and develop new technologies over time that can withstand a varied range of conditions. This approach not only saves time contacting different sites for information, but also helps remove geographic and linguistic barriers. While this approach is easier between treatment plants engineered by the same company, cross-company partnerships can be extremely valuable in assisting ongoing research and as datasets can be anonymised, there is minimised risk to privacy and security. 

Contact The LAT Water Team

If you’re looking for a new industrial wastewater treatment provider with modern technology around-the-clock support, contact our team on +44 (0)1635 635900 or by emailing Download our corporate brochure for more details about our sustainable wastewater treatment solutions and check out the rest of our blog for more insights into the work that we do.

Elias Elia
08th Aug 2023