Combatting Water Infrastructure Leakage with IoT

According to the International Water Association, more than 400 billion liters of potable water are lost through leakage each year, largely due to ageing and crumbling infrastructure. Furthermore, while a one-day water mains break will lose roughly 75 thousand liters of water, an unreported service connection break can lose more than 4.5 million liters of water during the six months that, on average, it takes to be discovered. From reservoirs to water mains to indoor plumbing, leaks can spring up anywhere along water’s piped journey, costing time, money, and resources, and it’s never been more critical to conserve water. The UN estimates 2.3 billion people already live in water-stressed countries and globally, water use is growing at more than twice the rate of population increase.  

This is not great news for municipalities and other concerned parties, who are dealing with the double whammy of increasing urban populations and the resulting water stress. So, what can be done to address the challenges around this increasingly scarce resource? This is where IoT can make all the difference.

There are any number of benefits in using IoT to better manage water systems. Here are just six of the top takeaways:

  • Better transparency
  • Fewer incidents
  • Enhanced control
  • Data-based decision making
  • Cost control
  • Improved sustainability

Utility companies are of course already widely using IoT for digital metering solutions, but IoT water leak detection technology can play an invaluable role for facility owners and operators in developing a comprehensive plan for mitigating leakage. Advancements in IoT technologies such as LPWA (low-power, wide area) allow for the efficient management and maintenance of ageing water supply infrastructure through remote monitoring.

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Through the use of IoT, water utilities can plan for and mitigate possible challenges or even prevent them from happening, predicting behaviors in advance or even as they occur, in real time, including pinpointing location.

Advanced IoT sensors allow detailed, accurate, and real-time analysis of water systems, including potable water, wastewater, and waterways. Additionally, IoT technology enables utility companies to monitor various parameters remotely, including:

  • Water quality & pressure
  • Temperature
  • Turbidity & suspended solids
  • Water levels

The reduced visibility of water mains and pipes means monitoring can be challenging. The introduction of small IoT sensors and devices makes leak detection simpler and faster. These sensors and devices, often using LPWA technology, can be used to measure vibrations, pressure, flow rates, and in some cases even sound waves. They monitor water flow patterns and immediately detect when this flow deviates from normal patterns bases on data from the sensors. Early detection of leaks and even the level of damage can be very beneficial in terms of sustainability, time savings, cost estimates, understand the scope of repairs, and thus better use of manpower.

IoT sensors and the data produced can also contribute to decision making by predicting potential leakage. Predictive maintenance allows you to take precautionary measures, as well as direct your resources more precisely, addressing challenges when they are still manageable. In other words, instead of having to deal with a major water main break, which can interrupt service and potentially create gridlock on the roads, you can find and fix a smaller leak with minimal disruption. By deploying IoT technology for predictive purposes, you reduce schedules or time-based checks. Instead, data will tell you where you have a challenge, allowing you to make informed decisions so you can protect your assets by addressing challenges quickly and efficiently and minimizing potential further damage.

Taking a closer look at the cost cutting benefits, while IoT sensors can save time, alleviate stress, and save money by preventing or minimizing challenges, they can also help when estimating damage. Sensors can often detect how much damage has been caused by a water leak and can potentially stop a leak as soon as it starts by sending an alert, which triggers a shutoff valve to close the main supply line. This quick response saves you money in myriad ways and the data will help you understand the scope of the problem and what it’s going to take to fix it.

Ultimately, water is a finite resource and of all the water on earth, only 3% is fresh water. With growing populations combined with water stress, it is critical that the growing gap between supply and demand is addressed. Streamlined water processes and minimizing wastage are key elements to ensuring this. Real time monitoring alerts and maintenance alerts can be key factors in doing this when addressing water leakage. Additionally, an integrated approach can include monitoring reservoir levels and monitoring ground water levels, creating a framework for smart cities, while promoting improved coordination and management of water resources and processes.

If you would like to learn more about how IoT can help you better manage your business and operations, please get in touch.

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