Sunil Ghorawat
April 23, 2016

"Smart Water" is not just the latest marketing hype from consultants and technology vendors. A number of research reports by environmental, industry and governmental organizations have exposed the great need for upgrading the world's water infrastructure with innovative and smarter technology.

The water lifecycle begins with the capture of water from many sources; rain, underground aquifers, rivers, ice melts, etc. Storage and treatment of raw water is where technology enters the picture. Water utilities around the world need upgrades throughout the system including more efficient plant operations, optimization of pumping, asset management, power usage optimization, leak detection, detection of contaminants, and consumer access to individual usage. From the treatment plant to the tap, there are many layers to the infrastructure. Sensor technology, automation and control devices, and data analytics software throughout the infrastructure system are all needed to make a system "smart."

When water bills go up everyone notices. Everyone looks for solutions to save water, reduce pumping costs, prevent leakages and match demand with supply. The rising marginal cost of producing clean water together with increasing demand and higher expectations of reliability and quality of service leaves municipal water utilities facing an uphill challenge - managing aging networks with limited resources.

The starting point of any analysis and corrective action has to be data - data to understand and manage the price increase. Utilities need more data to operate their utilities, manage leak-loss and ensure they are billing all their revenue. Customers need better data to understand their own consumption and ultimately manage their own behavior.

Leakage is a big part of Non-Revenue Water (NRW). NRW is the difference between the volume of water supplied to a system and the volume of water that is billed to its consumers. It is made up of three components, un-billed authorized consumption, apparent loss and real loss. Each component has its own particular cause, effect, value and set of solutions.

To develop an effective NRW management strategy, utilities and municipalities must first be able to obtain a thorough understanding of the causes and effects of components of NRW in their water system through a detailed water audit and data analysis that quantifies and validates the components of water consumption and water loss in a system. New technologies, software and services from companies around the world are focused on reducing NRW.

The smart cities of tomorrow will manage their water resources better. Industry and consulting community needs to stay in sync with this requirement, and develop the right eco-system for innovation. Only by aligning hardware, software and analytics would we find solutions to our future water problems.

Sunil Ghorawat Sunil Ghorawat is Editor-in-Chief, EverythingAboutWater magazine.