One of the major challenges for all nations, developing and developed, is ensuring people have reliable access to water supply services. By 2050, the UN projects that one in four people is likely to live in a country that is affected by chronic or recurring water shortages due to numerous pressures including increasing populations and economic growth, as well as the impacts of climate change (rising sea levels, longer droughts and more frequent storms and flooding events). As such, water utilities are being challenged to deliver water efficiently as well as balance rising demand with limited supplies.
Climate change will make it difficult for water managers to rely solely on historical hydrologic weather patterns for decision-making. Instead, water managers will need access to information on current conditions on a timely basis for water resources management. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) will become crucial providing water managers with information on environmental variables including temperature, soil moisture levels and rainfall to forecast decisions.
Smart water meters managing limited supplies
To manage limited water supplies, water managers can use ICT to obtain real-time information about water use and track and forecast water supply levels. This will reduce water losses in the system – non-revenue water – which is the difference between what is pumped, treated and supplied to the distribution system compared to what actually reaches customers: in many cities around the world non-revenue water can be up to 20% of total.
On the demand side, water utilities can use smart meters to track usage more accurately enabling utilities to not only detect leakages quicker but also implement water pricing schemes that encourage water conservation. In particular, rather than receiving a water bill every quarter customers can track their usage in real time enabling them to quickly identify leaks and modify their behavior. There are two types of smart meters available: Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMRs are a one-way automated meter reading solution sending water usage date back to the utility. In comparison AMI is a two-way solution that creates a network between the meters/devices and the utility’s information systems. Data flows both ways facilitating not only remote meter reading but also the ability to detect leaks and illegal connections, forecast the next water bill, receive information on alternative pricing schemes and compare energy usage with water use etc.
The overall benefits to the water utility of installing smart meters include:
- Reducing peak-period demand for water and energy
- Encouraging consumer water and energy savings
- Reducing carbon emissions in the water system
Smart meters can provide utilities with critical real time information to balance demand with limited supplies, reducing energy costs and carbon emissions.