70% of the World’s land is covered with water, yet some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water.
However, with the increasing population, water use has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit at which water services can be sustainably delivered, especially in arid regions. Water scarcity will be exacerbated as rapidly growing urban areas place heavy pressure on neighboring water resources. Climate change and bio-energy demands are also expected to amplify the already complex relationship between world development and water demand.
Water scarcity is the great global crisis of our time. More than 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Dozens of countries, including the U.S. and Mexico, will face extreme water shortages in the next 25 years. There is no singular cause. Extreme undervaluation and excessive water use, exacerbated climate change, increased urban migration and rapid population growth, and aging infrastructure are all contributing factors to growing water scarcity.
Many of the problems we now face can be addressed with the right technological implementations at the global and market levels. The Internet of Things and advanced data analytics afford unprecedented access and visibility into water usage and will play a pivotal role in the reduction of global water consumption
The Impact Of Water Scarcity
Severe water scarcity has already affected some of the most prominent cities and regions around the world, creating social and economic instability for large portions of the global population:
- 2.2 Billion is the economic cost of California’s drought in 2014 affecting breweries, rice supplies, fashion, semiconductor manufacturing, golf courses and other industries.
- The Worst Drought in 70 years was 2008, Barcelona was forced to import tens of millions of gallons of water during its worst drought in 70 years. A report from the Basque Center for Climate Change, a research center focused on studying the causes and effects of climate change, estimated the total economic loss as almost 1 percent of Catelonia’s GDP. The drought affected almost every facet of public life, including agriculture, industry, trade and tourism, banking, education, and health services.
- In 2012, the largest municipal hospital in New Delhi, India, was forced to postpone 40 surgeries due to lack of water. Surgeons were unable to sterilize their instruments, clean operating rooms or even wash their hands
- In 2015, Trucost—an organization owned by the S&P Dow Jones Indices dedicated to providing the data, tools and insights companies, investors and policymakers need to transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy—announced that 14 of the world’s 20 megacities were “experiencing water scarcity or drought conditions.
The Interrelated Causes Of Water Scarcity
The causes of water scarcity around the world are well documented.
Undervaluation Of Water
Despite water’s undeniable contribution to the global ecosystem, not to mention every living thing’s survival—it is the most acutely undervalued resource on Earth. This is truer of the United States than almost every other country. The U.S. is the second-highest consumer of water per capita, trailing only New Zealand. The average American in 2016 used 418,052 gallons of water.
Population Growth And Urban Migration
The U.S. The Census Bureau estimated in the months before World Population Day 2018 (July 11, 2018) that the world population eclipsed 7 billion people in 2012. Rapid population growth 1.16 percent annually, according to 2017 data from the World Bank inevitably means greater strain on food demand and production, the key ingredient in which is, of course, water. When considered within the context of a population that is expected to exceed 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, the potential implications become severe. People are also migrating to urban centers at greater rates, placing additional strain on aging infrastructure. A 2018 United Nations report studying the patterns and effects of urbanization found that 55 percent of the global population—about 4.2 billion people—already resides in urban centers, compared to just 30 percent in 1950.The same study estimated that, by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in cities
The combination of an increased population and denser urban centers will place untenable strain on existing water infrastructure unless significant investments and capital improvements are made on each major continent. The U.S., for instance, has an estimated 1 million miles of pipes that deliver drinking water. Many of those pipes were built in the mid-20th century with a lifespan of 75 to 100 years. The fading integrity of existing infrastructure leads to about 240,000 water main breaks each year, wasting more than 2 trillion gallons of potable water. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card calculated that leaking or aging pipes “are wasting 14 to 18 percent of each day’s treated water,” the equivalent of 15 million households.The same report cited the average pipe replacement rate in the U.S. as 0.5 percent per year, far too low to maintain the quality of infrastructure needed to sustain a growing population. The challenge of confronting aging infrastructure—which will cost an estimated $1 trillion in the U.S. alone—is not unique to North America. In 2017, the U.N. adopted Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), aimed at ensuring safe access to water and sanitation for all. The U.N. estimates that the amount of capital investment required to attain that goal must reach $1.7 trillion by 2030.
The massive deforestation of tropical rainforests has the dichotomous effect of reducing the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide and stabilize rainfall. The rainforests’ ability to do
Both are threatened, as up to 80,000 acres are lost to deforestation everyday. Pandemic deforestation accounts for as much as 15 percent of global carbon emissions, more than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. The aggregated result, especially in vital ecological regions such as the Amazon, eliminates the critical cooling effect forests have on the entire planet, while also creating more unpredictable global precipitation patterns: “Deforestation in the Amazon region of South America (Amazonia) influences rainfall from Mexico to Texas. Similarly, deforesting lands in Central Africa affects precipitation in the upper and lower U.S. Midwest, while deforestation in Southeast Asia was found to alter rainfall in China and the Balkan Peninsula. It is important to note that such changes primarily occur in certain seasons and that the combination of deforestation in these areas enhances rain in one region while reducing it in another.
Water Scarcity Is Not The Next Generation’s Problem.
It already affects billions of people, making it perhaps the most universal challenge for a globalized populace, as well as making water conservation technology both a tangible solution and a lucrative investment. Many enterprises are already making significant investments and inroads in sustainability technology and water conservation to combat many of the causes of water scarcity. More so than ever, the right technology implementations can both reduce risk and deliver demonstrable return on investment in both financial and water savings for enterprises willing to invest in them. Regardless of the impetus for the investment—sustainability, financial incentive, marketing strategy—the result will be the same
But, when the world started talking about cities that are “Smart” and provide affluent life to their citizens, clean drinking water was one of them as the most important pieces of critical infrastructure. Cities started to think about this critical need and coined the term smart water pointing to water and wastewater infrastructure. Smart Water management ensures that this precious resource is managed effectively and is designed in a way that gathers meaningful and actionable data about the flow, pressure and distribution of a city’s water.
Smart Water Meter
Smart water meters, apart from advanced sensors, software analytics and services is one of the critical requirements in smart water management. Smart Water meters are Internet of Things (IoT) enabled that helps water consumers to track their exact water usage by following a pay-as-you-use system. Smart Water meters create a two-way communication channel between user and provider to share information with each other that empower both parties to take useful and practical actions.
The potential benefits of these technological implementations—and the problems they solve—are as clear as the factors that created such need for them in the first place.
- As rates continue to increase, the need to properly allocate water— and to avoid excessive and unnecessary usage—becomes more prominent.
- As infrastructure ages, the risk of undetectable leaks also increases. The current rate of 240,000 main leaks per year will undoubtedly rise, creating more headaches for facility managers, property owners, portfolio managers and others who may be footing the utility bill for an underground leak that went undetected for a month or more.
- Enterprises gathering and utilizing water-related insights turn water from a cost into an asset that increases profit margins, optimizes operations and ultimately conserves water.
- Asset values of individual properties automatically rise when IoT technology is installed.
- For business leaders more concerned with the environmental or sustainable element of water savings, reputational risk is also a concern. In an era of increasing values-based brand loyalty, sustainability initiatives can act as a competitive differentiator, a source of pride for a brand and as a marketing opportunity to target customers or stakeholders who share similar values.
IoT enabled water meters help to reduce water losses in the entire water distribution network and allow utilities to track and manage the demand for water. This demand management helps utilities to make the best use of existing water supplies. Subsequently, utilities can forecast the time when their water resources will run out and accordingly make plans for the future. This further empowers the conversation of water resources and helps provide everyone with sufficient potable water.
Cities now have started using smart water meters that are equipped with advanced solutions to track water usage of individual houses and avoid wastage. For example, Singapore recently started creating a network of smart water meters. The main purpose of using these IoT driven devices is for the city to record water consumption data. Singapore’s PUB also wants to use this network to establish an engagement strategy by incentivizing customers to save water. This is all a part of the PUB’s plan to evoke consumers and motivate them to conserve water and reduce tariffs.
Benefits of a Smart Water meter
Smart water meters help to conserve water, saves energy and chemical costs, allows suppliers to charge for water based on use, and is the fairest way to allocate the costs of water supply to users. To utility providers, it helps in identifying leaks, save and reduce energy, help in forecasting and planning water demand from citizens and monitor performance indicators. To citizens, Smart water helps to manage water bills, monitor consumption, rationing of water-based on consumption thresholds and water-based on time of day.
IoT enabled smart water meters also help in testing the quality of water. ensuring that there are no pollutants present in water. These sensors can identify conductivity, pH level, salinity, TDS, and temperature. They have proximity sensors, and one small change in any of these levels will be detected, and the sensors will intimate officials immediately. The smart water meters will ensure that every house gets quality water.
These meters also help to reduce water waste. IoT water meters also help in identifying any damage in water pipes. Here, sensors detect the problem, and then with the help of a remote operation feature, the water board can stop the flow immediately to reduce the wastage.
The usage of water in every household and industry varies depending on the seasons. People usually consume more water in summers and less in winters, yet they are charged with a similar amount of money irrespective of the season. In such a scenario, these smart water meters help in setting up the price as per use. It detects the households that are using more water and the ones that are using less and sets the price accordingly.