Water technology solutions detect water system loss and fight drought challenges
By Craig Gooch
The drought has increased pressure on water companies in the Western states to reduce consumption and manage their water systems with less revenue. Israel and Australia have been through prolonged droughts and have developed and applied technology to improve their water-use efficiency. The U.S. has much to learn and can capitalize on technologies deployed elsewhere that improve water efficiency.
One such solution is big data analytics to enhance water system operations. Big data refers to the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data to reveal meaningful insights that are otherwise difficult to discern. In the water industry, progressive agencies are adopting big data analytics to help them focus on high-benefit water savings within their water distribution systems and to manage reductions in customer consumption.
Taking a note from Israelis and Australians, U.S. water districts are increasing the instrumentation of their water systems by installing sensors that measure flow, pressure, water quality, and metered use. These sensors record detailed measurements throughout the water system at intervals of one minute to one hour. A district with 40,000 customers could expect to develop a database of over one billion records per year. Finding the needle in that haystack is a task tailor-made for big data analytics solutions.
Water districts are achieving a bottom line return-on-investment by deploying data analytics to identify and manage leaks, pressure drops, and other inefficiencies in the water distribution system or with the water consumer. Unitywater in Australia incorporated such a solution to identify and reduce unaccounted water use (leakage and meter under reporting). The result is a 10 times return on their investment of $2.5 million, resulting in $24 million in real revenue and avoided costs.
Elsewhere, big data analytics using advanced statistical algorithms provide a detailed view of customer use that can alert customers when leaks occur. Using smart water meters, near real-time water consumption measurements enable customers to monitor their consumption from customer web portals hosted by water companies. Many water companies are providing customers with reports showing their consumption each month compared to reduction goals and what their neighbors are achieving.
The application of information technology is being applied throughout the water industry at an exponential rate. Existing water systems are being highly instrumented to measure water use, system pressure and flow, water quality, and water production. The resulting big data will help water districts and their customers increase the efficiency of water system operations.
As communities across the Western U.S. are learning, the culture of our society must shift to reflect the real value of water as a precious resource. This combination of culture shift and technology advancements will lead to enhanced efficiencies in water management and use.
Craig Gooch is a senior project manager in Psomas’ Spatial Technology Solutions team.