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Mary Wilson, Director Smart Metering, Sensus

Water utilities have long expressed concerns about five major pain points:

1) leaks
2) non-revenue water
3) theft
4) poor customer service and
5) an overall need to conserve resources, including water and energy.

They understand the time is now to address these five pain points and preserve this precious resource for future generations. Fortunately, technologies are available today that address these five common pain points with measurable results. The key: implementation of a smart water network.

A smart water network is an integrated set of water technologies and services that enable utilities to continuously monitor and diagnose problems, prioritise and manage maintenance issues and use data to optimise all aspects of the water distribution network.

Overcoming the budget challenge Here’s the thing. Budgets are tight which means most utilities are not in a position to immediately implement every aspect of a smart water network. That’s why solutions need to be adaptable, flexible and most importantly, sustainable.

One size doesn’t need to fit all and putting solutions in place one at time with a network that can support future applications is a wise approach. For example, focusing solely on improved leakage and pressure management can have a huge impact: One-third of utilities around the globe report a loss of more than 40 percent of clean water due to leaks.

Reducing leaks by 5 percent, coupled with up to a 10 percent reduction in pipe bursts, can save utilities up to $4.6 billion annually according to 2012 Water 20/20 Report “Bringing Smart Water into Focus.”

By stopping leaks, smart water networks can reduce the amount of money wasted on producing and/ or purchasing water, consuming energy required to pump water and treating water for distribution. Or, to focus on another area, streamlined network operations and maintenance can drive massive cost savings alone.

By implementing smarter technology that provides the critical data, via remote operations, utilities can save up to 20 percent savings in labour, vehicle efficiency and productivity. A smart water network solution can help streamline network operations and maintenance by automating tasks associated with routine maintenance and operation of the water distribution system.

Taking the step-by-step approach As we saw with the examples above, you don’t have to address all of your pain points at once. Determine the biggest issue for your community and then deploy a solution that addresses it. If you prioritise your needs, the savings from the first issue can help pay for the next one.

Of course, that only works if you have a smart water network that is “sustainable” and can easily support new applications when you are ready. To ensure your network can grow with you as needed, look for these characteristics:

Sustainable: A single, multi-application communication network that meets your needs today and in the future. Select a cost-effective communication system and meters and consider encryption and interoperability features such as IPv6. Features that may not seem relevant today could be necessary tomorrow, so ensure your system can be upgraded.

Intelligent: Smart endpoints and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) systems garner and deliver an unprecedented amount of data to combat non-revenue water, theft and wasted water. The information alone is just that—data. Make sure your data management system not only gathers the information you need but helps you make intelligent decisions based on the data.

Reliable: Can your metering solution withstand the test of time? Many meters suffer from accuracy degradation within just a few years of deployment. Ensure the system you install today is one you can depend on tomorrow.

Customisable: No two utilities are exactly alike, and neither is your smart water network solution. When selecting a system, make sure it can be customised to the size and specific needs of your utility. With the right system, your water utility can move step-by-step into a better future.

Jessica Dickers is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator who is currently the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Infrastructure. With a strong writing background, Jessica has experience in journalism, editing, print production, content marketing, event program creation, PR and editorial management. Her favourite part of her role as editor is collaborating with the sector to put together the best industry-leading content for the audience.

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