For most water utilities, increased water stress by 2030 is a foregone conclusion.About four in 10 executives (39%) polled for this report think that, given current trends, national water demand in their countries will outstrip supply by 2030.A further 54% think such a risk is moderately likely. But the nature of such stress varies hugely, depending on local circumstances.This water stress is already being felt keenly in Asia. Brahma Chellaney, the author of Water: Asia’s New Battleground, recently wrote: “Asia’s water crisis is at the heart of the world’s water challenges, where the degradation of surface and subterranean water resources threatens the ecosystem. With Asia facing the world’s lowest per capita access to fresh water, the continent’s ever-deeper search for water is sucking groundwater reserves dry with millions of pump-operated wells as it confronts river depletion.”Further, he said, “Asia already has the world’s largest number of people without basic or adequate access to water. Asians are experiencing very high water-distribution losses, a lack of 24/7 supply in many cities, and drinking water contamination due to unregulated industrial and agricultural practices.” Asia channels 82 percent of its water for food production. In fact, almost 74 percent of the total global fresh water used for agriculture is in Asia alone, Chellaney points out.These are startling statistics.
In the past, water consumers have not really had to think about wasting water, as it has been such an inexpensive commodity. From a consumer perspective, the availability of water is a de facto human right. And so wasteful behavior is a core challenge to water providers.There are other major barriers, as well. In developing countries, a lack of capital for investment topped the list of concerns (selected by 41%), while worries over climate change are close behind (38%).Another key barrier is regulatory. In part, this relates to the setting of tariffs, which one in three of the study’s respondents say is simply insufficient to encourage investment. In general, regulatory concerns tend to be more worrying in developing markets, where regulatory frameworks are often not well established. And finally, there is the skills gap. The water sector continues to struggle to attract top engineers and managers, many of whom seek better paid, or more glamorous, careers. And many existing skills are now retiring, just as they are in the electric and gas utility industries.
Historically, water suppliers have largely focused on supply-side measures. But as the pressures on the sector rise, and the nature of the challenges faced starts to shift. Topping the list is demand management: getting users to think more carefully about water conservation. At the core of this is the water meter: Water executives in both developed and developing markets placed new metering and usage awareness technologies as their most promising technology-led approach to ensuring water supply to 2030.And this works: research shows that simply installing a water meter typically cuts usage by 10% to 15%.
Prompted by necessity, the water sector is becoming an increasingly prominent innovator, due to the implementation of technologies such as smart meters and desalination solutions. For instance, one fifth of water utilities in developed markets regularly evaluate new technologies, compared to a third of developing countries.However, more water utilities must improve their ability to identify and implement such advances, with over a third (36%) unaware of the innovation options open to them.One such innovator, for example, is Israel, which has become expert in water reuse, recycling some 70% of its wastewater.
As we just discussed, innovation is occurring on many fronts. If we take a quick look at this chart, we can see there are a number of independencies and stresses here, some of which are stressing both the water system and utility itself. On the right, you can see how smart technology solutions are working to assist.This quiet boom in innovation is also being led by smart water networks. Let’s take a step back and look at the history of what we now call “smart water networks.”
There are many use cases for smart meters and the data coming from them. The questions water utilities need to be asking are: How can I use that to optimize my operations? How do I minimize lost revenues for lost water? How do I cover my costs while volumes are dropping?
Defining the dashboard for the utility’s different lines of business means looking at the value of all the data and the analytics holistically, across all of your operations.The power of analytics comes when you bring the data from different areas into a common place, mash it up, and share it across the verticals.
As you can see in this diagram, it is important that your reference model is extendable, so that it will address your needs not only right now, but over time.
The business case for addressing non-revenue water is clear. First, loss reduction means reduced costs from water loss and increased values, a reduction in energy and chemical consumption, and increased billing accuracy.Second, it allows for the opportunity for you to utilize your assets in a more efficient manner.Finally, better service is of utmost importance to the customer.
Running dry smart water and leak detection by steven windsor