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Unitywater’s Digital Neighbourhood Program has produced water and cost savings through new smart meter technology.

The program, which was created to improve the operational management of the water network and customer experience, includes 10,000 digitally-enabled meters installed across selected Sunshine Coast suburbs in Queensland.

The meters include both loggers and integrated meters and have detected 17 leaks since the rollout began in June.

Unitywater Executive Manager Customer Delivery, Rhett Duncan, said leaks that would have otherwise gone undetected until the customer’s bill arrived have saved four million litres of water – enough to fill almost two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“With the South East Queensland combined water grid dam level hovering around 58 per cent, water conservation continues to be one of Unitywater’s most important missions,” Mr Duncan said. 

“These devices are a great asset in helping us conserve our precious water supplies.”

Customers were notified on day one of the leak detection via text message and email. The early detection saved the customers a combined $16,000 based on daily water loss from the day of repair to the next bill date. 

“These devices allow us to alert customers if there is a leak on their side of the meter to avoid that horrendous bill shock that can come through at the end of the billing quarter,” Mr Duncan said.

Acoustic leak detection (ALD) and pressure transient sensors are also enabling real time recognition of events occurring in the network​. 

ALD sensors led to a significant leak detection that would have resulted in 130 kilolitres of water lost per day until detected.

The program also includes communication networks to carry the Internet of Things (IoT) data from new devices to the business and online water quality monitoring devices.

The water quality monitoring devices analyse disinfectant (chlorine) levels, microbial levels, and other water quality indicators such as pH levels, turbidity, conductivity and ammonia levels.

The next phase of the smart tech trial will be the consolidation of the project’s insights and outcomes to allow Unitywater to assess the potential benefits of rolling out across the wider Unitywater network of more than 350,000 customers in the fast-growing Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast and Noosa regions.

“The digital transformation is really exciting for us. It’s about taking our pipes, our pumps and our assets and turning them into smart assets that talk to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mr Duncan said.

“It is about identifying how Unitywater needs to operate differently and how we need to change the way we work to maximise the benefits of this technology that ultimately will deliver lower cost to our customers.

“The combination of right devices, a reliable communications network and big data is providing us with the foundation to deliver real-time information to our people to make faster, more informed decisions and to reduce customer disruptions.”

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