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management strategies, particularly during drought conditions or other events, and when planning system upgrades or maintenance. • Evidence-based forecasting. Water consumption data will also allow water authorities to monitor the effect of scarcity pricing or water restrictions in near-real time. • Proactive leakage management. Water utilities would be better able to intervene when infrastructure leakage events occur. • Targeted demand efficiency. Monitoring end-user consumption provides the ability to quantify the effect of targeted water efficiency programs — such as efficiency rebate offers — or of changes to tariff systems and their effect on end-user behaviour. From the end-consumer perspective, smart metering also offers benefits. According to Associate Professor Rodney Stewart of Griffith University5: “The present customer water information and billing arrangements are vastly inadequate. A smart metering system provides the impetus for a new approach to knowledge transfer of water consumption data, directly to consumers via a range of communication platforms and in-house displays.” In the same way it is envisaged for smart electricity metering, the use of smart water metering should lead to a more informed consumer, who can then make better choices about their water usage.

Challenges While deploying smart meters will provide data to support all these benefits, it is not sufficient in itself. Water utilities often do not have robust data acquisition and informatics algorithms and tools in place. By itself, big data without effective and efficient data mining methods and algorithms to achieve enhanced decision-making is not useful.

“City-wide smart metering implementations have the potential to stream gigabytes of time-stamped water use and other associated information (such as water temperature, pressure, quality) from pipe networks right down to the individual water use appliances (eg, washing machine) and fixtures (eg, tap),” said Professor Stewart. “Such datasets are powerful for a range of water planning, engineering and customer response decisions — but only if processed, refined and reported in a way that is more intuitive and informative than traditional approaches.”6 The main challenges therefore are: • Smart meter rollout. • Network infrastructure to support smart meters. • Providing smart meter data to consumers at little or no additional cost (enhanced service). • Developing the big data analytics that will be needed to take advantage of smart meter data. While all these are solvable, they come down to two more basic issues: cost and data volume. Firstly, smart meters themselves

are more costly than interval meters, and a smart meter rollout will mean replacing meters well before their end-of-life. Cost aside, smart meters are of little benefit without the critical cloud or edgebased software systems that make collected data useful — both for water authorities and consumers. Water utilities often do not have the in-house capabilities to build large-scale data acquisition and processing algorithms and tools. Big data alone without effective data mining methods tends to bog down water utility operations as they drown in data.

Conclusion While Australia is the driest populated continent on Earth, growing urban populations, economic growth and increased agricultural production are all expected to increase water usage further in the coming decades. Additional water sources may be needed, but better utilisation of current resources, and the reduction of water wastage, are goals that can be achieved with the application of modern data acquisition and data mining technologies.

References 1. Lehane S 2014, Australia’s Water Security Part 2: Water Use, Strategic Analysis Paper, Future Directions International. 2. Ibid. 3. Dalzell S 2014, Billions of litres of water lost each year through ageing network: report, <>, ABC News. 4. ABC News 2015, City's water pipes still in good condition despite burst main flooding Dulwich Hill homes, Sydney Water says, <>, ABC News. 5. Stewart R 2015, Smart water metering: saving water and money, <http://app.>, Griffith University. 6. Ibid.


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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...