How we manage our water is extremely important. From the source to the consumer, the process needs to be consistent, efficient and high quality. Everyone in the community benefits from effective water management, and keeping a streamlined process is also crucial for the environment. Water scarcity across the globe and domestically is an unfortunate reality. Everyone needs water, and this drives continued efforts to improve management and distribution.
One solution growing in popularity is the integration of water management and the “Internet of Things” (IoT). IoT can change the way we assess and manage water use on every level.
The Internet of Things is a system of connected devices that can compile various data points to give key decision-makers actionable data. Devices connect in a variety of ways; the most common is through the internet or cloud computing.
IoT can work with the water industry by giving utilities and consumers new information on water use. Through the use of sensor technology, IoT can deliver data about water consumption, quality, points of loss or leakage, distribution and wastewater.
IoT can play a vital role in the present and future of the water industry. By integrating IoT with the water management process, operators can be alerted sooner of possible process issues, detect leaks more easily and improve distribution.
Effective water management at every point of the process is essential. Wastewater overflow is harmful to the environment and anyone exposed to the contamination. Better, real-time data on wastewater processes can help utilities and treatment facilities monitor capacity, reduce spills and manage more proactively.
IoT is becoming less expensive and more feasible for implementation for utilities of all sizes. This higher level of connectivity can aid water processing and distribution, resulting in greater efficiency and ultimately, improved supply for the consumer. IoT application to agriculture could net substantial positive results in saving water and in unconventional farming techniques.
Smart water meters are one of the ways utilities can give end consumers actionable data now. These meters work like traditional meters by showing how much water is used. However, they connect to a network that would give both the utility and the consumer instant data on a smart device or computer. These devices allow residents and businesses to see how much water they are using compared to a city or district average.
These meters could also help detect leaks, which would save water and money by mitigating the expense of moisture damage repairs.
Smart water sensors can provide necessary data to distributors to enable them to fix problems more quickly. Information like water pressure, quality and consumption help companies identify issues within the infrastructure. These sensors are becoming cheaper to implement and easier to install.
Most freshwater goes into watering crops around the world. Farming and agriculture use 70% of all freshwater withdrawal across the globe. Smart irrigation systems can help farmers make informed decisions on how best to water their crops. Soil moisture sensors and weather data can help reduce the amount of water used and improve overall efficiency.
Unfortunately, with every innovation in the industry, there are risks to be considered.
The information transferred back and forth from the sensors and meters to utility companies should be secure, but there is always a chance of a malicious party breaching data. Hacking is a considerable concern for utilities moving into the future due to our dependence on the services they provide. Utility companies must be diligent with cybersecurity education and practices.
Privacy is another concern raised by those who oppose IoT integration with utilities. The main worry is that companies will have too much information on the customer and could use this data to alter pricing.
IoT technology is becoming more affordable, but still may be cost-prohibitive for smaller utilities. There has to be community-wide buy-in for successful implementation. Clear communication on the importance and benefits of IoT integration is vital.
Another problem with using new systems is the downtime required to install them. Since water is a resource that we need every day, being unable to access it, even for a brief period, could cause issues. The demand for utility services is high, which can turn some companies away from taking the time to upgrade their water distribution system.
While IoT water management may be in the distant future for your utility, you can partner with the experts who can help your system run more efficiently and within regulation today. Contact Alliance Water Resources to see how we can help.