The city can reduce drinking water leakage and gain savings with smart water management solutions
June 20, 2017
According to UN Habitat the urban population increases by 2 people every second. Taking this trend into account, cities have to adapt their water supply systems efficiently.
Adequate drinking water supply is the backbone of any modern society and is essential for the undisturbed life and its development. With the increasing urban population and constantly changing lifestyle and eating habits that increase the consumption of drinking water in the domestic as well as in the industrial and agricultural sector, cities are facing a major challenge of providing sufficient quantities of quality drinking water to its residents. In addition, future projections predict a 55% increase in water consumption by 2050, mainly due to the increased overall consumption, electricity production, and increased water consumption in households, which will further strain on the already over-exploited aquifer systems. Therefore, smart water management indicates primarily efficient and economical drinking water usage, which brings environmental and economic benefits to the cities.
Proper management of water resources is strongly linked to smart spatial planning that encourages urban settlement concentration and limits urban sprawl. Such urban settlement development reduces the need for extensive investments in building new water supply networks that may constitute a major investment burden on the city budget and further increase the water supply system maintenance costs, thereby increasing the price of water for citizens.
Another key area of smart drinking water management is the control and reduction of drinking water losses in the water supply systems. This »non-revenue« water is being lost in the water supply system before it reaches the end consumers. Such drinking water losses are a major problem worldwide, causing significant economic loss and environmental harm. The World Bank estimates that the economic loss of drinking water leakage is approaching $14 billion annually. The quantity of drinking water leakage is not enormous in the developing countries and cities only. Even the most developed countries and cities are faced with over 20% or even well over 30% drinking water leakage: Montreal, Dublin, Lima, London, Hong Kong, Rome, Atlanta, Cleveland, etc.
According to the European Environment Agency, many European cities are still facing great water leakage issues, especially in countries that reported extremely high water losses in urban water supply systems two decades ago: Bulgaria about 50%, Slovenia about 40%, Hungary, Ireland, Czech Republic and Romania between 30% and 40%, Italy and France around 30%, Spain, Britain and Slovakia between 20% and 30%.
Water leakage problem represents great challenge to the cities, since inadequate planning and implementation of measures can cause significant investment costs. In order to manage water resources wisely, the city must have quality real-time information on the available water quantity and consumption. Secondly, to be able to reduce water losses in water supply systems effectively, the city needs information on exact location of the watery supply system errors. These data enable the implementation of exact – and thus the most cost-effective – renovation of the most deteriorated parts of the water supply system that contribute most to the water leakage.
Cities can gather quality data by using modern sensor technology solutions, supported by a specialized software for management and data analyses. Sensors enable accurate measurement and monitoring of the water supply system and help identify locations of water losses in the system. They measure the flow of water through the pipes and detect and adequately alert about changes in water consumption outside the planned or normal quantity. Such quality data enable the city to react timely and renovate the damaged or worn out parts of the water supply system. Similarly, sensors allow monitoring of end-users water consumption as well and detect unplanned deviations that may indicate errors or damages in the water supply system and even leakage of taps. Managing and analysing the data gathered by using smart platforms provides a comprehensive overview of the current situation to the city, review on the progress achieved, efforts towards achieving key development goals, comparison with other cities, and shaping future development in cooperation with the citizens.
Water efficient and economic usage development programs are a great opportunity for improving the relationship and cooperation between the city authorities and citizens and the adoption of common decisions, which have positive effects for all: the city allocates its budget more effectively, while citizens receive lower water bills.