While smart grid initiatives on the power system get all of the attention (and most of the money), some water utility managers are embracing smart grid technologies as they strive to improve the efficiency of their systems. That trend will expand in the next few years, albeit at a moderate pace compared to the more aggressive deployments by electric utilities.
Evidence of this trend continues to mount:
- Australia’s Sydney Water began deployment in early July of high-efficiency Itron meters to replace its aging stock. The three-year program will enable Sydney Water (which serves 4.6 million people) to eventually take advantage of automated and advanced metering technology.
- In the United Kingdom, Thames Water is extending a smart grid trial in the town of Reading to the city of London. The utility’s commercial director, Dr. Piers Clark, says, “Smart water metering will play a critical role in helping the water industry to better manage consumption and leakage.”
- In Charlotte, N.C., a public-private effort called Smart Water Now has been created to measure consumption and improve efficiency. The city has partnered with Itron, Siemens, CH2M Hill, and Verizon to collect and analyze data with the aim of lowering operational costs and improving sustainability.
At next month’s World Water Congress & Exhibition in Busan, South Korea, several workshops will tackle the issues around smart water systems including sessions on “Creating Operationally Smart Networks – Today and in the Future,” and “Water Quality Control and the Smart Grid Approach.”
Worldwide demand for water is expected to soar 40% over the next two decades, according to the 2030 Water Resources Group, and losses from un-metered water total $14 billion in missed revenue opportunities each year, according to the World Bank. These drivers will help fuel a move to smart technology solutions that promise more efficient water systems.
At Pike Research we see smart meters playing a key role in this move to smarter water grids. Our worldwide forecast calls for nearly 30 million smart meters to be installed by 2017, up from 10.3 million meters last year (see Pike Research’s Smart Water Meters report). The annual market value of those new meters will be almost $500 million at that time. Beyond improved metering, emerging solutions involve new sensor capabilities for better leak detection, enhanced monitoring of water quality, and the ability to better detect security threats to water systems. Deployments of new technology will be steady, but growth in this market will be a stream, not a flood. The inhibitors include the risk-averse mentality of some utility managers, the lack of capital for deployments amidst sluggish economic growth, consumer pushback (as we’ve seen with smart electric meters), and the data-deluge challenge that many utilities in both the power and water sectors just aren’t yet prepared to deal with.