Water conservation is fast becoming a necessity throughout the world, and especially in drought-prone places like the Western United States, Australia, and China. California Governor Jerry Brown suggests fines of up to $10,000 for water wasters as the state's devastating drought drags on. But a high-tech solution might be less painful for public utilities, industry, and consumers in the short run and could better regulate limited resources in the long run. IoT smart water meters can be a powerful conservation tool to track water consumption and regulate its use.
New Water Meter Technology Solves Old Problems
Water conservation is easier if businesses and consumers know how much water they're already using. Baseline data allows for comparisons, trend spotting, and goal setting. Just as important, learning about current use patterns can reveal leaks that waste water.
Smart water meters use Internet of Things technology to connect with both the water utility and the end customer. These meters can be read over cellular networks, and the data is stored and maintained via cloud-computing software. All of this helps water utilities regulate water resources more efficiently and empowers consumers to conserve water on a daily basis.
Smart Water Meters Begin to Take Hold in Cities
Much like optimizing a smart grid for power distribution, water utilities are starting to realize that an upgrade to IoT technology is good for sustainability. The University of California Merced has used smart water meters since 2011, reducing water use in campus dorms by 14% in the first year. The University of California Santa Cruz expects to finish installing similar water meters in summer 2015.
In January 2014, the town of Sunnyvale began a pilot program using cellular meter systems from Badger Meters (which is powered by the Aeris network). Accurate, real-time data is already helping Sunnyvale meet conservation goals, plus improve customer service. San Francisco switched entirely to smart water meters in fall 2014, becoming one of the largest cities in the U.S. to adopt this technology.
IoT Water Meters Can Make Industry More Efficient
Governor Brown's water-conservation measures include a new Water Energy Technology program. Qualifying technologies that demonstrate significant water savings may receive incentives. This program could subsidize water-use monitoring software and flow meters, like those made by Bader Meter, which has released its own metering recommendations for California. While public utilities may be the first to benefit from the program, water-intensive industries can also participate.
Agriculture contributes $42 billion in annual revenue to California, but farm business is always dependant on water. Farmers who get immediate feedback on their water consumption rates through smart meters are better able to conserve. Constantly changing drought-related legislation requires agricultural businesses to report water-use information to state regulators, so upgraded IoT water meters can only make this task easier.
While high-tech water meters can make an immediate impact in California and other drought-prone areas, this technology has the potential to revolutionize public utilities and many industries. Efficient data collection and reporting through flexible, integrated systems can save precious natural resources as well as making water management more cost-effective for municipalities. Smart water meters would be a smart investment for the future.