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'Digital twins' to mimic water management scenarios

By Hou Liqiang in Luoyang, Henan and Shi Baoyin in Zhengzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-21 09:38
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China will accelerate the development of a "digital twin" system for water resources management as it strives to improve flood control and enhance water security, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.

Digital twins are data-driven digital representations of water bodies and water resources management infrastructure, and can provide evolving pictures of their conditions.

With the capabilities to make "what if" simulations and scenario planning without having to do physical tests or produce potentially dangerous conditions, the digital twins can help water resources management authorities make strategic decisions to improve their work and shape future plans.

The ministry has made consistent efforts to improve the database needed for the system's construction, the ministry said in a release on Tuesday.

Currently, data for 16 million water resources management projects of 55 types, including reservoirs and river dikes, are updated in a dynamic manner.

The ministry now also collects real-time monitoring data from 53,000 precipitation stations and 25,000 hydrological stations, as well as a series of meteorological satellites and weather radars.

The ministry will strive to advance the construction of the digital twin system and build it into one with the capabilities to make forecasts, issue early warnings, conduct simulations and draft contingency plans, Li Guoying, minister of water resources, said at a conference on Tuesday.

The event was held at the Xiaolangdi Multipurpose Dam Project, which is on the Yellow River, the country's second longest watercourse.

The project is located between Luoyang and Jiyuan in Henan province.

One of the priorities in the work is to build digital twins for river basins. The ministry will speed up the digitalization of all physical elements of river basins and water governance procedures to realize intelligent simulation, Li said.

The digital twin system records the past and shows the current conditions. "But most important of all, it helps predict future scenarios. In the case of harsh conditions, it can help us ensure security in flood control," Li stressed, while learning about the construction process of the digital twin for Xiaolangdi.

As the country shores up the building of a national water network, the construction of a digital twin system for it should be advanced simultaneously to help guarantee the security of infrastructure, water supply and water quality, he said.

The central authorities issued an overarching guideline to guide the construction of the national water network in May.

By 2025, China will develop major projects concerning the national water network and strengthen efforts to address weak links in water resource allocation, urban and rural water supply, flood control and drainage, water ecological protection and smart water networks, according to the document.

Builders and operators of water resources management projects should arrange dedicated funds for the construction and maintenance of digital twins, Li said.

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