Several parts of the world are experiencing water stress and high water bills. Stemming water leaks and promoting water conservation is becoming increasingly important. While a lot of attention has been given to the electric smart grid, there is potentially an equally large market for a water smart grid. IBM estimates that the market for a water smart grid could be worth US $10 billion for just the information technology side of the business.
Leaks are a major problem for utilities, with the water infrastructure in some cities at more than fifty years old, this problem is growing. Currently utilities only monitor major leaks at intersections in a pipeline network but not small leaks that, if left alone, can disrupt water pressure, larger leakages and undermine pavements. Smart fire hydrants could be used to detect small leaks in some countries and relay this information back to the utility. For example, Mueller Systems’ Mi Hydrant can wirelessly transmit data on water flow on demand or at set times to a utility.
Smart water meters are starting to make inroads in the market. In the USA alone water bills have risen by an average of one third over the past five years. Thus, there is a market for customers to have real-time data on their water usage and water prices. In the Middle East and North Africa significant water stress has created a small, but growing market for meters.
On the demand side, approximately 50% of urban water is used for landscaping. Most water sprinkling systems are on a timer and settings are usually based on estimates over a season rather than on a day-to-day or hourly basis. Smart irrigation systems can help efficiently use water resources with technologies that can even use satellite technology and weather forecasts to estimate evaporation rates and thus change watering patterns. This type of technology and soil sensors has already been used in the agricultural sector to prevent the under watering and over watering of crops.
As there is a strong connection between energy and water, conserving water is bound to conserve energy. Therefore, a water smart grid would help improve overall energy efficiency.