Smart Water: pipe control to reduce water leakages in Smart Cities

Worldwide global water consumption has tripled since 1950. In 2006 it surpassed 4,300 km3 per year, the equivalent to 30% of the world’s endowment of renewable water. In the twentieth century, global water consumption rose sixfold between 1900 and 1995, more than double the rate of population growth. Water abstractions for irrigation have also increased by 75% since 1960 and it is estimated that 20-30% of the water used is wasted due to evaporation and overirrigation.

In the picture, the water consumption distribution per use and continent:

These dizzying figures make water a scarce commodity at that 20% of the global population has no access. Ironically, water covers 3/4 of our world, although only a 3% is fresh water.

Smart cities monitor water supply and distribution
Smart cities must monitor water supply and distribution to ensure that there is sufficient access for citizen and industry use and also to save money. However, as we pointed above, water is becoming a scarcer resource due to many reasons:

  • Increased city populations mean increased demand for water
  • Climactic changes have reduced rainfall forecasts
  • Traditional water extraction methods have depleted available water from some local sources.

Twin goals: manage demand, minimise leakage
Managing water resources means managing demand and ensuring any losses from the system are minimal. Around the globe, many cities already have water restrictions in place to curb demand and reduce waste. While demand is being better controlled, there are still huge losses to water supply from inefficient distribution and water leakage.

For example, the amount of a city’s water supply that is lost to water leakage is as high as:

  • Up to 20% in Canadian municipalities
  • 20 % in United Kingdom, Spain, Malta, and the Czech Republic
  • 25% in Rome.
  • Nearly 50% in London and Vietnam

To get it worse, the European Environment Agency forecasts that by 2030 – in less than 20 years time! – global demand for water will increase by 40%.

Water leakage problems: sensor technology solutions
The problem of water must be faced, not only in cities but houses because every drop counts. Wireless Sensor Networks provide the technology for cities to more accurately monitor their water pipe systems and identify their greatest water loss risks.

Cities that are addressing water leakages with sensor technology are generating high savings from their investment. Tokyo, for example, has calculated they save $USD170 million each year by detecting water leakage problems early.

Libelium’s Smart Metering Sensor Board includes a water flow sensor that can detect pipe flow rates ranging from 0.15 to 60 litres/minute. The system can report pipe flow measurement data regularly, as well as send automatic alerts if water use is outside of an expected normal range. This allows a smart city to identify the location of leaking pipes and prioritize repairs based on the amount of water loss that could be prevented.

For housing scenarios, a simple sensor for detecting liquid presence in the floor (included in the Waspmote Events sensor board) can alert on areas that need fixing. Finally, Waspmote Agricultural Sensor Board can monitor soil moisture as a way to determine if the ground is absorbing water from pipe leakages or just to optimize the water used in irrigation.

The sensors on these boards can be used as part of a network that monitors and responds to water pipe leakages across an urban area. Strategic placement of sensors can ensure city-wide coverage. Data from the sensor boards can be collected at regular intervals and sent by wireless network to the city for analysis and for preventative action. Data can also be sent directly to the Internet for sharing with the local community and industry, so that everyone can understand and contribute to a city’s responsible water management.

Waspmote’s modularity and openness enables Smart Water solutions to be deployed flexibly by customers. For larger scale deployment, Libelium offers a development service to create custom metering boards with just one or two sensors.

For any doubt about how to approach this solution do not hesitate to contact us.