The digital revolution is here and it’s influencing every industry in the public and private sectors. With the advent of smart metering, the Internet of Things and other types of digital infrastructure, water utility services too have moved to the future of digitization. The rise of digital water fuels economic development and makes the sector more customer-friendly. It has the power to transform the water industry in both developing and developed countries. Let’s take a closer look at how digitization can revolutionize the 21st-century water utility.
Measuring water flow is difficult. It doesn’t help that the accuracy levels of traditional mechanical water meters cannot measure a loss of less than ¼ gallon per minute. In a day, this amounts to 360 gallons. To put it in perspective, this is the average amount of water that 400-700 adults could drink in a day.
It could fill a swimming pool in less than 2 months. Smart meters can improve this level of accuracy for water measurement to 1/16 gallon per minute. When meters are more accurate, billing becomes better and the utility service provider can generate more revenue to improve infrastructure and service.
In developing countries like India, almost half the water in the system is lost due to poor overall management, theft, leaks, and contamination. A leaky tap left unattended could go a long way in contributing to water wastage. But, technology could help with early identification of such leaks and help reduce them.
It is not unusual for water to be diverted for uses other than what it was designated for. Digitization can help utility service providers get a more accurate picture of the water usage and losses at various nodes in the distribution network. Once identified, leaks can be fixed, theft can be stopped and contamination can be minimized to manage water more efficiently.
Installing smart meters for water connections and other digital solutions help service providers understand the demand and consumption for each account. This gives the service provider enough data to offer more personalized, value-added services. For example, by getting an accurate picture of the average water consumption for a particular area, utility service providers could offer differentiated prices. Similarly, digitization in the payment area can make it easier for customers to clear payments. They will no longer have to stand in queues to pay their bills- they can simply pay them online. By digitizing and personalizing their services, utility service providers can improve their relationships with customers.
Digitization offers new tools to help manage and minimize the mismanagement of water. By metering all connections, thefts and leakages can be easily identified. It also makes it possible for utility service providers to identify if and when water resources are being mismanaged. For example, agricultural water may be being rerouted to industrial or residential usage.
Water may be billed differently for agricultural, residential and industrial usage. Hence, this rerouting may bring about corruption in the system. By accurately billing each account for the water it consumes and limiting theft, the system can be made more transparent and accountable.
Losses faced by utility service providers can be categorized as commercial and infrastructural losses. Commercial losses can be controlled through accurate metering and billing. Infrastructural losses are largely caused by poorly maintained pipes and other physical infrastructure pieces. Smart meters and digital technology can help identify issues that need maintenance in their early stages.
For example, it could help identify a leak before it causes a burst pipe. By identifying such issues at an early stage, the maintenance is easier and it can cost less too. It can also help service providers’ move away from a reactive approach to a more predictive one.
Digitization of water services can take utility service providers towards a more sustainable and productive future. Digital solutions shine in every aspect of the water management system. It makes resource distribution more efficient, makes billing more accurate, provides data for resource management, reduces corruption in the system and provides a platform for personalized services.