Utilities are transiting to digital business models for leveraging real-time data for drawing instant actionable insight, where devices such as mechanical water meters are being replaced by digital smart water meters. Smart water meters in industries play a crucial role in handling the heating and cooling systems that demand significant energy requirements when compared to other equipment. The deployment of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) by various end users, across their distribution grids, can create potential remote monitoring of the customer-related data, helping industries in adjusting their water usage, accordingly. Moreover, smart water meters also enable bidirectional communication between the meter and the central system employed by the utilities, reforming their business process, along with time and cost reduction.

Smart water metering is gaining immense popularity as these meters assure better connectivity and advanced features over their conventional counterparts. The global smart water metering industry is in the middle of mammoth smart meter rollouts, as they provide real-time data, better operational efficiency, and reduce water bills, which in turn supports the conservation of water. Government policies and steps taken by water distribution companies to guarantee accurate meter reading and billing, reduction in non-revenue costs, and retrieval of billions lost to non-revenue water will drive the growth of the market. However, lack of sufficient financial support from governments in developing countries is predicted to negatively impact the adoption of smart water meters in these regions. According to the World Water Development Report, 480 million people in Asia alone will face water scarcity in the future.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Features

Integrated with advanced digital hardware and software, smart water meters have reaped enormous popularity when energy efficiency and conservation trends are at the peak. Enumerated below are some of the advanced features of the AMI systems:

  • Advanced meter accuracy that has exhilarated the replacement of aging and inaccurate meters
  • Efficient and accurate meter reading and re-reads
  • Near real-time alerts that can improve consumption patterns and manage water use
  • Real-time damage/theft alerts

Leveraging Cellular and IIoT Platform

The trend surrounding cellular and IIoT platforms since the past several years will boost smart water metering. Cellular technologies exclude the need for obsolete fixed-network infrastructure while enabling water utilities to use Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology, one of the best solutions for their needs, providing system software upgrades in minutes rather than weeks as compared to a fixed network. Such benefits may probably result in diverting infrastructure installation and maintenance expenses on other tasks, along with time-saving. 

Customer Engagement

Utilities are focusing on engaging their customers to monitor and manage their water usage by providing real-time meter-reading based analysis and tips through web and phone application platforms. This can help diminish concerns regarding water tariff increase or leaks and reduce the response time – which can lead to enhanced efficiency and boost water conservation efforts.

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News from Corporate World 

  • Recently, Southern Water, a U.K.-based distribution corporation claimed that its AMI venture is able to save about 27 million liters of treated water on a regular basis in South and South-East England.
  • The very recent smart water metering trial network in Norwich with the placement of 11,000 new smart water meters conducted by Arqiva in partnership with Sensus is an epitome of the efforts of the industry giants to exploit the potential of smart meter technologies.
  • Retailer Shoprite Group, partnered with local smart water meter start-up Bridgiot, to roll out a smart meter initiative to reduce water usage at Cape Town’s top 100 high-volume water consuming schools. In a trial of the smart water meters, they witnessed a 72% drop in water usage at the Hector Peterson Senior Secondary School in the region.

Global Initiatives

  • In Australia, the demand for smart water meters is expected to rise in major cities following an effective rollout of an NB-IoT network by the country’s leading telecommunications company, Telstra.
  • Zimbabwe’s water authority, ZINWA, has incurred loss greater than $140m to bad debt. Following which, the government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate Change, passed a verdict ordering ZINWA to install smart prepaid water meters for municipal customers.
  • Europe has water meter replacement policies in various countries: Every 3 to 6 years in Central & Eastern Europe, and 10 to 15 years in Western Europe.

Ever since mankind's evolution, no new water source was ever found. Without metering, there is no solution for anyone to save water. Various research activities have proven that water consumption drops by up to 35% upon metering. Most residential apartments lack individual water metering. The individual consumptions are unequal which results in most residents paying for others' consumption as well at a fixed flat rate, resulting in insensitiveness among people towards water wastage in their homes.

Water metering has become smartly advanced and will keep innovating for advancements in other connected technologies. The declining price of connectivity and the increasing value of metering data have been persistent to improve the business case for smart water meters. Similarly, software as a service (SaaS) and other new business models allow smaller utilities to realize the benefits of large-scale software offerings at a reasonable cost. Though, the water utility market might not yet be ready for shared-savings, the current scenario transparently depicts IT-centric data services and a rise in AMI adoption. These will be the two major trends for water utilities and vendors to watch, as the technology-driven water network formulates.

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