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How Utilities and Consumers Can Benefit from Smart Water Solutions

  • Post category:News

Water is the most precious resource. Yet, more and more often we witness ecological catastrophes related to water – floods, droughts, contamination, waste. How can we address the problems with this non-renewable resource?

The Problems – Water Scarcity and Aging Infrastructure

Historically, water utilities did not need much of the modern technologies like forecasts and predictive modeling (applied widely by energy utilities) because until recently in the developed world water used to be considered as cheap and abundant resource. Moreover, water can be stored for peak demand periods – something that cannot be said for electricity (hence, the need in energy utilities for more accurate forecasting and planning).

Nowadays, however, water scarcity and aging infrastructure have changed the problems water utilities have to deal with.

Water scarcity is a growing global concern, with approximately 500 million people living in countries where there is insufficient usable water supply. The global population has tripled, and domestic and industrial water demand has increased six-fold, putting intense stress on an already depleted and diminishing global water supply. Furthermore, the effects of climate change will continue to harm global usable water sources, with the potential for over four billion people – more than half of the world’s population – to be chronically water-stressed by 2050. Thus, in addition to increasing freshwater production (via desalination or water recycling) to meet current demand, better supply, demand management and conservation efforts are required to avert water crises soon. Water consumption can be reduced in two ways:

  • Through large-scale regulatory and infrastructure action – typically entails water use restrictions, increased pricing and customized water rates, as well as the installation of more efficient irrigation and water recycling technologies and treatment plant improvements.
  • Individual conservation efforts in the home and community involves implementing strategies that result in water savings by changing individual behavior.

Although these methods are somewhat novel in the domain of water consumption, they have been widely implemented and tested for domestic energy and gas use. Indeed, there is strong evidence for the effectiveness of various “smart” feedback methods in reducing energy consumption, thanks to the provision of real-time energy usage data. This data is being used to produce forecasts and process models to aim utilities in long-term and short-term planning and decision-making.

The History of The Water Meter

In a world where energy is becoming increasingly important, consumption management is becoming an essential component of our daily lives. Humanity has progressed from the first mechanical water meters to the modern ultrasonic meter with remote reading functionalities. The benefits are more precise and efficient consumption metering. In some countries outside Europe, water meters with a shut off valve are installed which allows you to remotely control the water supply. In South Africa, for example, prepaid meters are used.

The first water meter

In 1851 by request of London’s water companies, German engineer and industrialist Carl Wilhelm Siemens patented the idea of such a device. Water meters, according to other sources, were already in use in the United States and Great Britain at the time. William Sewell of Williamsburg received the first official US patent for a water meter in 1850.

The first water meters were mechanical. They operated on the same principle as a water mill, transmitting the rotation of the impeller to the dial via a gear counting mechanism. Their main disadvantage was low sensitivity, which resulted in large reading errors. In 1963, Japan was the first to introduce modern ultrasonic meters for industrial use.

Later water meter technologies

Ultrasonic water meters are now the most accurate and dependable means of measurement. According to ARC Advisory Group (USA) marketing research, the market for ultrasonic water meters has nearly doubled in the last five years.

Use of Smart Meters to Provide Consumption Information to both Utilities and Consumers

A water smart-meter is a device that records water consumption for both the utility company and the user. Whereas traditional water meters are typically read manually once a month or once a year, smart meters record consumption in real-time or near real-time and communicate this information to the utility and the consumer. This provides instant, up-to-date consumption information, with the benefits of accurate, site-specific readings, easier and faster identification of leaks and water waste, and greater consumer transparency (e.g. bills based on actual rather than estimated use). Governments and water utilities are increasingly focused on smart meter installation, owing to the expectation that smart meters will result in reduced water consumption.

AMI and Machine Learning Solutions offered by ADD Bulgaria

Smart water meters are not just smart devices, they create an Advanced Metering Infrastructure, just like the one in the energy utilities. In such an infrastructure, the potential benefits for the water utilities and its customers are many, ranging from more precise and timely billing, more efficient consumption reading by elimination of manual processes, rapid adaptation to changes in consumption, leak/burst detection and prevention, preparation for long-term changes.

Solutions by ADD Group

In the spring of 2022, ADD Grup, one of the leading companies in the global metering equipment market, completed laboratory tests and began mass production of ADDRA smart water meters.

Ultrasonic water meter designed for smart water solution key features:

  • Shut off water availability for unpaid bills or in case of a leak/burst;
  • Close water for the specified time
  • Limited flow function to reduce water consumption;
  • Manage water availability remotely via associated water meter;
  • BLE 5.0 to control ADD shut-off valve via the associated meter.
  • Multi-functional bicolor LED to reflect valve states.
  • Battery lifetime up to 16

Shut-off valve designed for smart water control

  • Communication through Bluetooth (BLE 5.0)
  • Prepayment and post-payment mode supported
  • The current balance in the local currency and in cubic meter
  • Consumers’ load disconnecting on credit amount exhaustion
  • User notification when: – No data exchange with the meter for a long time – The meter credit is exhausted – The payment time is close to expiring – The order time is close to expiring
  • Supports the following alarm types: Leakage; Burst; Dry; Reverse flow; Tampering.
  • Data Registering and Storage. The meters record hourly, daily, monthly data on water consumption;
  • Battery lifetime – up to 16 years

The ADDRA ultrasonic water meter is a component of a smart water metering solution that allows for not only remote meter reading but also water management. This functionality is critical not only for prepayment purposes, where consumers can be disconnected from water supply for nonpayment or provided with limited consumption volumes, but also for emergency situations, where water can be disconnected in the event of a burst or leakage.

ADDERRA is another solution by ADD Grup which provides water and electricity submetering, allowing hotels and landlords to bill individual tenant consumption online and receive payments via a smartphone app. ADDERRA is integrated with the landlord’s billing and payment platform, allowing for a variety of payment terms via tokens, including preset credit, prepayment, and post-payment mode. More about this novel business model and way of controlling water consumption, read here.

Solutions by ITRON

As of September, 2022, ADD Bulgaria is an official certified partner of ITRON – the world leader in smart resource management. Itron enables utilities and cities to safely, securely and reliably deliver critical infrastructure solutions to communities in more than 100 countries. Their portfolio of smart networks, software, services, meters and sensors helps their customers better manage electricity, gas and water resources for the people they serve. By working with our customers to ensure their success, we help improve the quality of life, ensure the safety and promote the well-being of millions of people around the globe. Itron is dedicated to creating a more resourceful world.

Our partnership comes just at the right time when the situation with the water sector in Bulgaria in such a grave place.

Follow our news and blog posts in the near future, as we are going to share datasheets and actual more use cases of ITRON’s water operations management solution.