The focus on “smart metering” is often on electricity use, but the world’s growing population also has an effect on water consumption. Around the world, water supplies are becoming more scarce, and we have all heard the talk that water will be the next oil. Water inefficiency is a huge issue around the world, and the droughts and floods that have affected regions from Queensland to Georgia have had an impact on reliable water supplies.
For farming, residential use, and commercial properties, smart water metering can help reduce the waste of water and improve water efficiency. Shrinking supplies of water has had huge consequences for agricultural regions like California’s San Joaquin Valley, and estimates suggest that up to 50% of water in the developing world is wasted because of leaks, ineffective usage tracking, theft, and inadequate measuring systems. Water utilities and government boards are catching on, however, and for entrepreneurs in the smart water meter industry, the future looks bright: investment in global smart water meters will total over US$4 billion by 2016.
Pike Research recently completed a study that evaluated the global market for smart metering, and concluded that by 2016, over 31 million smart water meters in some form will be installed across the globe–almost quadruple the estimated amount that existed by the end of 2010. While agricultural use drives most of the growing demand for water, utilities also see a future with the installation of such meters at homes and businesses, too. Improved sensor technologies and automation systems will ensure more accurate leak detection. Consumer behavior has a large roll as well: consumers react to the technology by reducing their water usage on average by 15%.
Greater acceptance of smart water meters has its challenges: limited bandwidth for wireless communication, consumer resistance, lack of worldwide technology standards, and workers who see automated meters as a threat to their jobs are all roadblocks. But more municipalities are exploring pilot water metering programs, and for areas located in hot and dry climates, diminishing water supplies do not leave utilities or consumers much of a choice. Older cities like Washington, DC, which may not have the budget for large improvements in infrastructure, may turn to technologies like that of IBM’s in order to detect leaks and complete repairs more quickly. Improved technology and increased demand make it clear that smart meters for water are the future, not just a snazzy technological trend.