The compelling case for smarter water
Non-revenue water (NRW) – water that is produced but lost before it reaches the customer – is a major challenge for water utilities around the world. NRW has a significant financial impact on utilities and their customers. It also represents the loss of a precious resource.
NRW occurs for a variety of reasons:
- Unmetered consumption (where water meters do not exist so usage can’t be accurately measured)
- Authorized but unbilled consumption (firefighting, for instance)
- Apparent losses (water theft and metering inaccuracies)
- Real losses (leaks and bursts)
A 2011 study by the Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN), a Council advisor, compiled NRW losses in urban centers around the world. The findings were staggering. The NRW in Guayaquil, Ecuador topped the list at 73%, but Adana, Turkey wasn’t far behind at 69%. NRW ranging from 30% to 50% were not uncommon. Conversely Singapore, which is recognized as a leader and innovator in smart water, reported NRW losses of just 4%.
As Navigant Research analyst Neil Strother states: “Losses from NRW represent $14 billion in missed revenue opportunity each year, according to the World Bank. The economic case for better water metering is compelling.”
Navigant has forecast that the global installed base of smart water meters will reach 29.9 million by 2017, up from just 10.3 million meters in 2011. By the end of the forecast period, Navigant anticipates that 3.3 million smart water meters will be shipped each year, representing an annual market value of $476 million.
And smart water meters are only part of the larger market. In 2011, Lux Research said that the market for technologies to inspect and repair the world’s aging water infrastructure was approaching $20 billion worldwide and growing at a healthy 10%. It reported that many municipalities were desperately seeking cost-effective new ways to maintain their pipe networks. Lux claimed that the most successful solutions would be those that can monitor the entire water infrastructure and reveal the sections in most urgent need of repair.
“Outdated water infrastructure and record deficits are both fueling demand for low-cost inspection and repair solutions – namely software and sensor technologies that can provide a snapshot of a utility’s entire infrastructure,” said Brent Giles, a Lux Research senior analyst. “Without this holistic view, utilities cannot prioritize the most critical repairs – and may end up throwing money down the drain to address the leaks that are visible today rather than the ones that could prove catastrophic tomorrow.”