It is possible with technology to better predict how people use water and monitor its quality. This technology currently exists. For example, manufacturing industries such as semi-conductor manufacturing monitor water for trace metals. The same sensors can be used in a water network pipe.
Furthermore, these methods of sensor detection have been shown to work. Companies such as Suez have implemented smart water meters to track users’ water consumption in some locations in France, providing them with a better understanding of how the users consume water, and more importantly, when.
The emerging technology researchers of IDTechEx research predict that in the water pipe network alone, the industry of sensors will grow to over $3.5Bn by 2030. This area is a growing industry, and it is at the forefront of the Smart Cities and IoT technology areas. As Smart City Hub reported years ago, sensor technology is being adopted rapidly by smart cities such as Montreal.
What are the benefits of sensors in pipes?
Data brings understanding, and understanding brings better management of a system. Collecting data on the flow in water pipes allows companies to quickly identify regions where there is an increase in demand, and as a result, lower pressure in the pipes. Utility companies can correlate their usage data with current events. They can then answer questions such as: On average, how much water is used per day in a heatwave? Who uses the most water? What times of the day is the network strained?
Which sensors can be in water network pipes?
There are many different properties and measurements recorded in a water supply or a wastewater network, including the following:
− Pressure Measurements (static, stagnation, head)
− Flow levels (depth, pressure, velocity)
− Flow meters (velocity)
− Acoustic emission (leakage)
− Temperature measurements
− Chemical measurements (Ph, trace metals e.t.c)
When will it happen?
The need is, therefore, creating a smart water network, but it will only happen with investment. IDTechEx Research predicts there will be a change in regulation in 5-10 years. This change will push for smarter sensor-based networks. Moreover, the benefits of these systems will pay off any investment, providing a more efficient, safe, and monitored network.
As an emerging technology, digitizing and adding sensors to the water and wastewater networks may have both benefits and hindrances. Hindrance, as companies may not wish to spend large sums on new sensors, pipes, or technology, and the barriers for entry into the water and wastewater networks are already high.
The benefit of adopting sensors into the networks outweigh these barriers. There is a real need for remote monitoring. Monitoring removes the need for maintenance staff to check pipes as regularly or to collect samples for lab monitoring. It speeds up the identification of pollution events and reduces fines incurred by the water companies. It improves the efficiency of the treatment plants. It provides a better service for customers. A steep investment, but the dividends pay off for many years to come, according to the researchers.