Smart water grid — as important as smart energy grid

Posted on 5th November 2013 in environmental, Internet of Things, M2M

Environmental efficiency is one of my passions, and there’s compelling evidence that shortages of clean water are almost as much a threat to life on Earth as global warming is.

That’s why I was so excited to learn that Spain — already an exemplar of “smarter cities” thinking (due in large part to Libelium using it as a test site for its devices) — is launching a “smart water grid” program in the city of  Cáceres.

According to Jesse Berst (you really should subscribe to his Smart Grid News!), ACCIONA Agua, the water services division of ACCIONA, a global renewable energy, infrastructure and water services group, will build the system “as part of a European project that aims to apply new technologies to the management of drinking water networks.”

Its benefits will parallel those for “smart grid” electricity projects, including real-time detection of underwater leaks (so they can be repaired more quickly) and real-time control of water distribution and use, and remote meter reading that will allow the utility to alert homeowners to possible leaks in the home or other problems.

Note the critical benefits of real-time data: “Real time data is expected to optimize investment plans according to real needs, as well as hone the management of water services.”

Components will include:

  • remote meter readers
  • GIS
  • remote control information
  • water quality monitoring sensors
  • mathematical model to predicting the system’s behavior.

The project is part of ” SmartWater4Europe, an EU research project that brings together 21 participants, including water utilities, technology companies, universities and research centers. The project has a budget of more than €10 million, of which €2.5 million has been assigned to Cáceres.” Results will be monitored over a 4 year period.

I’ve been noodling for a while about what it will take to get mainstream companies that may not even know about the IoT, let alone have a strategy to capitalize on it, to test the waters. I’ve concluded that since water and energy utility bills are such a big issue for most companies that launching “smart grid” projects that capitalize on utilities’ investments in this area and can lead to quick savings in utility bills might be the ideal entry point. What do you think?