Why make water systems smart?
Smart cities use information and communications technology (ICT) to achieve a sustainable, efficient and clean water supply. Most people refer to an ICT-enabled water system as a “smart water system” or a “smart water network.” Smart water is driven by four urgent realities:
1. Water is scarce. Cities around the world suffer from water shortages. In addition, population growth and extreme weather patterns that create droughts and floods are expected to increase in the coming decades, making water an even more precious resource.
2. Water is at risk. Drought, flooding, salinization and other factors can wreak havoc on a water supply. (See list on previous page.)
3. Water is underpriced. Water today is often priced far below the level that would accurately reflect its scarcity. This price/value imbalance will rectify as water scarcity becomes more apparent. As a result, the price of water will rise significantly in the future.
4. Water infrastructure is expensive. Lack of real-time information about the water network status will lead to costly system break ups and sub-optimal maintenance.
Already we see regions where water periodically becomes scarce. We see regions where water is prohibitively expensive. For these reasons and many other reasons, every city must use smart technology to preserve and enhance its water supply while keeping the cost of water as low as possible. ICT can contribute in at least seven ways:
1. Map and monitor the physical infrastructure. Most water utilities do not know with great precision where their pipes and valves are located. In particular, they don’t know the actual condition of that infrastructure. ICT gives a highly accurate picture of location and “health.”
“Possessing a clear and comprehensive picture of the entire infrastructure can save a water company tens or hundreds of thousands in repairs each year,” explains the Smart Water Network Forum, an industry forum that acts as an advisor to the Smart Cities Council. “Survey-quality GPS, sometimes combined with electromagnetic or ground-penetrating radar, can map pipe infrastructure, creating three-dimensional maps that show exactly where the pipe is, correcting the widespread errors in existing maps, and ensuring that repair crews will find the pipe when they dig.” : Acoustic technology can continuously monitor pipes conditions and pinpoint leaks location.