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be acted on. But, of course, better utilisation requires a better understanding of actual usage and demand, and, historically, the available water metering technologies have not been adequate to fill this need. One important area in which better water monitoring would be of assistance is in the area of leak detection. Whether it is leakage within end-user properties or leakage in the distribution network, leaks account for a significant waste of Australia’s scarce water resources. In 2014, Western Australia’s Auditor-General found that the WA Water Corporation was losing billions of litres of water3: “In his report… Colin Murphy found the government agency was losing about 30 billion litres of water each year — ten billion more than what is considered acceptable,” wrote ABC News reporter Stephanie Dalzell. “‘They need to be doing more to pursue loss, they do have a leak detection program which is a good thing, that’s actually found and saved us 3.4 billion litres over the past three years,’ he [Murphy] said.” The interesting thing about this quote is that it implies that 20 billion litres of water loss is acceptable, and that 3.4 billion saved was a good result. The same article explained that


the Water Corporation in 2012–13 supplied over 357 billion litres of drinking water across WA, but that 13 billion litres of consumed water was not billed for. There certainly appears to be a strong case for better water metering in WA. Similarly in Sydney, a recent ABC report4 of a burst water main in the inner-west suburb of Dulwich Hill revealed that Sydney Water maintains 21,000 km of water pipes and 25,000 km of wastewater pipes, but that more than 50% of the pipes are more than 70 years old, and that a significant proportion is reaching end-of-life. Severe leaks can occur without warning, and minor leaks go undetected or unrepaired for long periods.

age, and make water network analysis and forecasting more possible. Of course industry makes use of industrial flowmeters that can provide highly accurate flow rate and volume data continuously, and which are fully adaptable to a digital data network — but the cost of implementing them at every end node on a water network would be cost-prohibitive. The rollout of smart metering capabilities, using network-capable interval meters, can be seen as a similar endeavour to the rollout of smart electricity metering and can take advantage of much of the same technology. Since the rollout of smart electricity metering is already in an advanced stage in many places, there may be the opportunity for water authorities to take advantage of shared infrastructure.

Smart water meters

Smart water metering will do more than allow for automated meter reading. It is expected to gather more granular water usage data (multiple daily readings), provide two-way communication between the meter and the water authority, and provide usage information for the customer via a low-power wireless network such as ZigBee — allowing the consumer to make more informed water usage choices. From the perspective of the water authorities, there are a number of benefits to be gained from smart metering, backed up by suitable big data analytics. Significant benefits could be found in: • Improved urban water planning. Having a better understanding of residential, commercial and industrial water consumption patterns will help urban water planners to better understand consumption trends. • Improved demand management. The use of data analytics from smart metering could significantly improve decisionmaking in relation to water demand

Currently, there are three types of water meters in use for residential and many commercial water usage measurements: accumulation meters, pulse meters and interval meters. Accumulation meters simply total the continuous water consumption and therefore only give an accumulation figure when read — typically once every three months. Pulse meters record a timestamp each time a certain volume is consumed, while interval meters record consumption over regular fixed intervals (eg, 15 or 30 min). To date, while all three types can be found, they are still only generally used to measure quarterly consumption, since the infrastructure necessary to take advantage of interval meters is not generally in place — these meters have, to date, only been used for billing purposes. Once the infrastructure is in place, however, interval meters will make it possible for water authorities to obtain detailed information on when customers are using water, allow analysis of network leak-

Benefits of smart metering

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Sustainability Matters Dec 2015/Jan 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Dec 2015/Jan 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...