Smart city, smarter water management

The pace of urbanization globally is unprecedented with nearly 66% of the world’s population expected to be urban by 2050. At the same time, global demand for water will increase by 55%. Therefore, the ability of cities to become smart in effectively and efficiently managing scarce water resources is critical to ensuring urban water security.

A smart city

To become ‘smart’ in general, cities around the world will need to increase the efficiency of existing and new infrastructure and services to levels never previously achieved. Cities will also need to become ‘smarter’ by leveraging the power of data and the use of technology to minimize resource consumption and waste both upstream (producers of goods and services) and downstream (consumers).

Smart city, smarter water management

To become smart at managing water, cities will need to roll-out water sensors that measure flow rates at different points in the water network to detect leakages, as well as sensors to monitor water quality issues including pH, dissolved oxygen and turbidity in the network. To become smarter, smart water meters can be installed to allow users to see their water consumption in real-time and compare their usage with others (e.g. in their neighborhood). The meters will also transmit water consumption data to facilitate billing. The smart meters can also alert customers to excessive water consumption spikes, which triggers the utility to send water conservation tips in the next water bill including how to look out for leaks.

Singapore becoming a smarter city

Singapore becoming a smarter city

Smarter water management in Singapore

Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) is trialing a smart water network in which the utility will collect detailed data on household water consumption to build customer consumption profiles and identify consumption patterns and trends. The data will then be analyzed and provided to customers enabling them to monitor their water usage patterns and better manage water consumption. In addition, PUB will also customize its engagement strategy by incentivizing customers to conserve water, for instance, setting water saving goals and tracking the efficiency of their water usage based on their consumption profiles. This is part of an experiment to see if elements of game playing are more effective at engaging and motivating customers to conserve water than increasing tariffs.

The take-out

Cities will need to roll out smart water networks that not only manage the network efficiently but also engage and motivate customers to save water.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley) and founder of Mitidaption, which consults on climate change risks to business, governance and society.

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Author: Robert C. Brears

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1 Comment

  1. Obviously, I agree 100% with Robert. Adding metering systems and sensors will allow municipalities to have a deeper detail of the water network and how it can me managed appropiately.
    However, if all these devices are isolated and separately managed, we won´t be able to really take advantage of what the integration data means and how these data are treated and manage to improve operational efficiency of the whole network, analyzing issues, adapting supply with demand and finally, save water and above all, providing with the right information to be able to reduce the cost of energy that today is the most important challenge to reach by the water-utilities.
    Our WatEner Platform can help on this challenge within the Water-Energy nexus.

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