Smart water meters are key to intelligent decision-making

With rapid urbanisation and climate change increasing water scarcity, cities and their respective water utilities are turning to smart meters and related technologies to manage water more efficiently.

By Robert C. Brears*

From the water utility’s side, smart meters provide multiple benefits including leak detection, energy reduction, demand forecasting, enhanced awareness campaigns, promotion of efficient appliances, and performance indicators. From the customer’s side, smart meters can provide information on when/where is water being used, comparisons of own water use against other customers, and quick leak detection. Smart apps can also be developed for customers, so they can, for example, compare their water usage with neighbours in the same street or suburb, compare water consumption with standard profiles (consumers with the same socio-demographic factors), compare their water consumption with the most efficient users in the city, or forecast their next water bill.

Some examples of leading cities implementing smart meters to ensure the efficient management of scarce water include Dubai, Singapore, and San Francisco.

Smart Dubai

To ensure the rational use of water, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is installing smart meters across the Emirate enabling customers to receive real-time information on water consumption. The smart meter data is delivered to customers via DEWA’s Smart App, allowing them to view billing information, graphs to check and compare their consumption, as well as set caps for water consumption.

Smart meter trials in Singapore

Singapore’s Public Utilities Board is trialing a smart water network in which the utility will collect detailed data on household water consumption to build customer consumption profiles and identify consumption patterns and trends. The data will then be analysed and provided to customers enabling them to monitor their water usage patterns and better manage water consumption.

San Francisco’s automated water meters

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has installed automated water meters in more than 96% of San Francisco’s 178,000 water accounts. The smart meters transmit hourly water consumption data to the utility’s billing system by a wireless network. SFPUC has also created the web portal My Account in which account holders can download detailed daily and monthly water usage data.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley) The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan), Natural Resource Management and the Circular Economy (Palgrave Macmillan), Blue and Green Cities: The Role of Blue-Green Infrastructure in Managing Urban Water Resources (Palgrave Macmillan) and editor of Climate Resilient Water Resources Management (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Our Future Water, Mitidaption, and Mark and Focus.

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