Smart utility networks: the future of water management

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Smart water technology represents a cutting-edge shift in the water industry. It integrates advanced hardware, software, and analytics to empower water and wastewater utilities in addressing critical challenges through automation, data collection, and analysis. This innovative approach offers potential solutions for leak detection, water and energy efficiency, water quality enhancement, and beyond. By providing a platform for more effective technology utilisation and data-driven decision-making, smart water technology is transforming process management in the sector.

Who’s driving smart water innovation?

The development of smart water technologies is a collaborative effort involving water utilities, technology firms, and hardware and software companies. From advanced leak detection systems to meters that collect and analyse flow data, and SCADA platforms that visualise complex data for improved insights, smart water manifests in various forms.

As digital and smart solutions become increasingly central to routine operations and maintenance, the water industry has seen a surge in smart water technology adoption. These solutions bridge the knowledge gap between seasoned professionals and newcomers to the industry, while also offering deeper insights into current processes, enabling optimisation of water and wastewater treatment systems.

Who stands to gain from smart water technology?

The benefits of smart water technology are wide-ranging. Utilities can optimise their systems, allowing for more strategic allocation of operational expenses. Manufacturers gain valuable data to guide innovation and product development. Engineers are better equipped to serve their clients, while residents benefit from improved insights into their water usage.

Importantly, smart water technology plays a crucial role in addressing water equity, affordability, and access issues, particularly for vulnerable communities. These technologies can provide valuable insights into water use strategies, identify pipe leaks, and highlight operational inefficiencies, ultimately supporting the delivery of clean, affordable water to all members of the community.

Smart water technology offers solutions to several key challenges in the water industry:

1. Infrastructure maintenance and expansion

2. Water distribution system leaks

3. Rising energy costs

4. Customer rate affordability

5. Emerging water contaminants

By leveraging data and advanced analytics, smart water technology enables more proactive, efficient, and equitable water management practices.

HOWEVER…

New frontiers need to be discussed:

1. DO WE NEED separate smart networks for waste, water, electric and gas?

2. WHY CANT we have a common national smart alliance based infrastructure?

3. WHY CANT we have common standards?

4. CAN WE STOP wasting a huge amount of money on separate smart networks?

Ash Shukla is Head of Business Technology Services at Southern Water and Executive Director of Ekam-ai

Originally published on LinkedIn on 25th June 2024

Feature Image Source: Futuristic representation of water structure by Freepik

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