In the heart of Australia’s drought-prone landscape, Stanthorpe has faced its fair share of water woes. However, a groundbreaking initiative spearheaded by the Southern Downs Regional Council and Unitywater is changing the narrative.

What began as a response to the town’s water supply crisis in 2020 has evolved into a pioneering smart water network that is not only safeguarding precious water resources but also saving both money and water for the community.

A game changing strategy
Since its installation in June 2023, the smart water network in Stanthorpe has been a game-changer. By leveraging a network of smart sensors and meters strategically placed throughout the town, more than 32 million litres of water have been saved, and more than $90,000 in costs have been avoided. These impressive numbers underscore the effectiveness of modern technology in addressing age-old challenges.

Rhett Duncan, Executive Manager Customer Delivery at Unitywater, emphasises the significance of this innovative approach.

“The smart water network enables real-time monitoring of water usage across four suburb-sized district metered areas, and using the Takadu Central Event Management system we can combine communication and data analysis information together to quickly identify and address leaks,” Mr Duncan said.

“Unitywater and Detection Services established the four District Metered Areas, installing flow meters and data
loggers into SDRC water network. This was to enable the identification of any potential leaks quickly.

“Volumetric flow meters use electromagnetic induction to measure liquid velocity at the entry point of each district metered area to capture the flow entering a suburb.

“This data is compared against actual customer consumption measured through smart meters at each property connection, with any difference indicating a potential leak that is then investigated.

“Being able to act quickly has helped us retain more than 13 Olympic swimming pools of precious water supplies within the local network and delivered big cost savings for the people of Stanthorpe.”

Successfully detecting and repairing leaks
One of the standout success stories of the smart network is the rapid detection and repair of a significant leak on Minna Street.

Buried beneath layers of earth and worsened by blasted rock, the leak was losing approximately 20 litres per minute.

From left to right: Ange Coetzee, Chris Gilham and Sarah Smith. Image/Unitywater

Thanks to the network’s vigilance, the leak was promptly repaired, potentially saving the affected Southern Downs Regional Council community up to $12,000 annually.

The benefits of the smart water network extend beyond leak detection and prevention. By harnessing the power of data transmitted via the network to a monitoring team at Unitywater, the council can proactively manage water resources round-the-clock. This real-time monitoring not only enhances the accuracy of water billing but also fosters community engagement in water-saving practices.

Every hour, data from the Stanthorpe water network is sent across the 5G network to a monitoring team based on the Sunshine Coast, who monitor it 24/7 and let Southern Downs Regional Council know when they’ve got a leak so they can fix it faster than ever before.

The introduction of this technology has delivered real benefits to the Southern Downs Regional Council, primarily the ability to immediately identify and investigate abnormally high flow events to determine if the source is a leak.

Improving water security
This trial is a testament to Southern Downs Regional Council’s commitment to water security for residents, Granite Belt growers, and tourism operators in Stanthorpe and its surrounding villages.

From a dire position in drought, Stanthorpe now has one of the smartest water networks in Australia with the ability to provide real-time water monitoring at both the customer and treatment plant levels, providing transparency and awareness to the community.

This comprehensive approach to water management is not only securing Stanthorpe’s water future but also setting a precedent for sustainable water management practices across Australia. With its smart water network leading the way, Stanthorpe is proving that innovation and collaboration with Unitywater are the keys to overcoming water challenges of today.

Lessons from Stanthorpe’s experience can inform future initiatives addressing water scarcity. By embracing technology, collaboration and data-driven insights, communities can build resilience and adaptability in the face of water supply uncertainty. Ultimately, the transformative power of innovation in water management offers hope for a sustainable future.

As the world grapples with the growing challenges around increased climate events, initiatives like the smart water network in Stanthorpe exemplify the power of innovation in addressing pressing environmental concerns. By harnessing the collective expertise of individuals, organisations, and governments, we can develop solutions that safeguard our most precious resources for generations to come.

Featured image: field crew from Southern Downs Regional Council. Image/UnityWater

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