IoT for water utilities

By | 2 minute read | January 9, 2017

It’s often said that water is the world’s most valuable commodity, but in many Western countries water has been so cheap and accessible that many people don’t even think about its cost. But with rapid urbanization – nearly 70% of the world’s population lives in cities – it is estimated that almost half of the population will live in water stressed areas by 2025.  This means that water will become one of the biggest expenses for cities in the future and will directly impact economies.

IoT water management solutions

The Internet of Things offers new solutions for improving water management, to maximize efficient use of this precious resource. Comprehensive water management strategies can reduce water costs by up to 20%, which has a real impact on cities. Water projects can be particularly complex since many cities rely on aging infrastructure, and the IoT also presents opportunities for municipalities to reduce operational expenses around construction, maintenance, and more.

Whilst traditional major infrastructure assets such as trunk mains, pumps or reservoirs have been instrumented for years using systems such as SCADA, the vast majority of the reticulation network – the final pipe network that delivers water to a customer’s premises – has always been “dark” to the utility.  That is, utilities rely almost exclusively on the customer acting as their sensor – when there’s a fault, the customer phones up to complain.

The potential of sensors

With IoT sensors offering a substantially cheaper price point and with new, battery powered networking solutions like LORA becoming available, the price barrier is significantly reduced. Lower prices on tech solutions allow the utility to “light up” more of their network, thereby both improving customer experience as well as reducing costs in operations and maintenance.

Here are a few of the ways IoT can improve water management:

  • Water leakage detection
  • More efficient systemic water management
  • Water quality and safety monitoring
  • Quality control on water reserves
  • Transparency on consumption
  • Prescriptive maintenance on infrastructure

Take a look at this short demo to see IoT and analytics in action in a miniaturized water processing, supply, and consumption simulation:

IoT water management in action

Curious to hear real client stories on how IBM helps with water management?  Watch this video on how Yarra Valley Water uses analytics to improve customer outcomes, or this video on how DC Water intelligently manages its aging infrastructure using IBM Maximo.