What is the “magic tool” to reduce water loss? I always like to say that it’s a problem which takes a toolbox, not just one tool, and just recently I ran into this fantastic chart presented by Yarra Valley Water which demonstrates this very neatly. It shows YVW’s total Non-Revenue Water and estimated leakage per connection per day over 16 years, with an overlay of the water loss control measures put into use during those years. In percentage terms, that last bar is somewhere under 12% NRW.
This is the fifth post in the “CTO Smart Water Insights” by Haggai Scolnicov, TaKaDu’s CTO.
I didn’t get to beautiful Utrecht to give this talk on SWANonomics at SWAN 2012, as I had intended, although I did get a great substitute to stand in for me.
Rather than talk about TaKaDu, network monitoring, or any of our technology, I wanted to use our few years’ experience in this dynamic part of the water industry to shine a light on some of the more surprising economic aspects of the Smart Water Networks revolution. Data revolutions are funny that way. It’s not just the tired truism that adoption of any technology is an economic process; new data has a way of changing what you know about the real world and your existing processes, and creates real new opportunities to take action differently.
Here are some of the unexpected headlines:
- Good news: smart monitoring drives spending increase on field crews
- Accepting new values discovered to entrenched KPIs goes through the exact 5 stages of grief
- Better leakage reduction means less Ml/day repaired
- The cost of water not lost is just a small part of the value of water loss reduction
By Amir Peleg
Last week, Some of TaKaDu’s employees and I had the pleasure of meeting Israel’s President, Mr. Shimon Peres. We met the president just as he was returning from the World Economic Forum at Davos, where I happened to meet him for the first time, two years ago, when TaKaDu was recognized as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for 2011.
This meeting was at his request: he wanted to learn more about how innovation can solve some of the world’s water problems and the looming water security crisis, recently ranked high by the Global Risk Survey 2013 of the World Economic Forum.
President Peres commented that the water crisis is one of the more imminent global crises facing humanity. We spoke about the fact that over 25% of potable water in the world is lost in the water distribution system as a result of leaks, bursts and other network issues (the professional term is “non-revenue water”). I was impressed by Mr. Peres’s interest in water efficiency and its wide implications, and his excitement about the opportunity to impact global problems through the use of new water technologies.
We presented TaKaDu’s vision of water network monitoring, to reduce water loss and improve operational efficiency by identifying and alerting upon network issues as they occur, through data analytics. I made the point that the issue is not as simple as it seems. The scarcity of water as a resource is not the only issue at hand. The bigger scarcity in the water sector is scarcity of technology innovation. This innovation has the potential of resolving many water sector issues. Israel’s high tech industry can serve as an optimal breeding ground for water technology innovation, since it has the three major requirements needed to foster technology innovation: (1) an entrepreneurial spirit and seasoned entrepreneurs, (2) a high degree of awareness of water issues, and (3) a well-developed venture capital community and government support of R&D efforts. Water innovation can take today’s water networks into the 21st century, solving water scarcity issues by better management of water distribution networks.
Mr. Peres expressed his support and hope that more people, in both industry and academia, will see water innovation as the core theme of the companies they found and the technologies they seek to develop.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report is developed from an annual survey of over 1,000 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society who were asked to review a landscape of 50 global risks.
The global risk that respondents rated most likely to manifest over the next 10 years is severe income disparity, while the risk rated as having the highest impact if it were to manifest is major systemic financial failure. There are also two risks appearing in the top five of both impact and likelihood – chronic fiscal imbalances and water supply crisis. Here is the report’s figure 4 ranking risks by likelihood and impact.
This is the fourth post in the “CTO Smart Water Insights” by Haggai Scolnicov, TaKaDu’s CTO.
I went to Water Loss 2012 in Manila to tell water utilities one simple thing: data already collected under accepted “best practices” is all they need for a dramatic improvement to water loss control. Of course, that’s part of what you get when you deploy TaKaDu, but I wanted to focus on something else.
There are various tools and methodologies out there to use network monitoring data, and they are far from having been created equal. Whilst the data from sensors and other sources does hold the key to water loss control, and the principles as sketched on a conference slide are simple enough, real-world conditions make data analysis the trickiest link in the active leakage control chain. Three murky clouds – typically glossed over in water loss presentations – help to muddy the waters:
- Data quality (the meter values could be wrong)
- Other network events (the event you found may not be a leak)
- Complex utility process (you think there may be a small leak somewhere – what to do now?)
In this presentation (and the more detailed paper), I revisited the “traditional” Active Leakage Control process, highlighting the role of data analysis (manual and automated), revolving around leakage analyst’s work on the 3 “S”es of data analysis Supermen: Sifting, Statistical estimation, and Special knowledge. By boosting this difficult stage, utilities report they achieved significant quantifiable savings throughout the ALC process.
To do this, I listed some guidelines for coping with the 3 big uncertainties of data, network events, and the utility process, starting with detailed knowledge and understanding of these factors, to be addressed by suitable processing. As with many data analytic challenges, these real-world data “technicalities” are, in fact, the main challenge for data-driven ALC.
If you’re a pessimist, my slides are mostly a long list of impediments to active leakage control. If you’re an optimist, they are a collection of opportunities to do it better. If you work at TaKaDu, these slides are just what we have been doing for the past few years, what we’re good at doing, and what we need to keep doing. Have a look also at some of the other great talks and papers from the conference, too.
This is the third post in the “CTO Smart Insights” series by Haggai Scolnicov, TaKaDu’s CTO.
The OECD and the European Commission held a fascinating workshop earlier this year in Copenhagen titled “The future of Eco-Innovation: The role of business models in green transformation”, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak there. A handful of representatives from some truly amazing companies were asked to help the workshop experts “showcase good practices of radical and systemic eco-innovations”. What a great validation for our belief in TaKaDu’s potential to transform the water industry!
It’s not an easy subject for idealists, policy-makers, academics, and people from industry – all present at the workshop – to discuss, though. Whatever their beliefs and private motivations, business leaders need to build viable businesses, where “green” technology can triumph only if it promotes great tangible value. This can typically be through marketing and public perception, concrete cost savings, or regulatory compliance. Yet on a national or global level, innovation for sustainability is often recognised as a goal in its own right. Can the two paradigms be brought together, and not just at the superficial “greenwashing” of entrenched industrial methods? Are big government grants for R&D consortia the best way to encourage this – vying with business investors to steer the industry, or should policy-makers wield their power in more unique ways?
For the case study of TaKaDu, I tried to explain what makes our technology, business, and industry so special, and how they are inextricably linked. Building on that, I shared some views on where government or international economic policy (the OECD’s main interests) can encourage and shape ecologically beneficial innovation. This, we hope, can harness and reinforce the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative capacity of business and technology innovators towards globally beneficial goals.
One of the nice things about being in the water utility business rather than in the electric or gas utility business is that water utilities don’t trace back their history only fifty or a hundred years. Some water utilities we’ve met trace back to the dawn of human urban settlement. That is certainly the case for Hagihon, Jerusalem’s water utility, named after the Gihon Springs. These springs were the main source of water for the inhabitants of ancient Jerusalem while also irrigating the adjacent Kidron valley and providing the city’s inhabitants with food.
To continue ensuring that Jerusalem can continue its thousands of years sustainable water use, Jerusalem’s Hagihon utility is one of the first utilities to have deployed a smart water network using TaKaDu’s water network monitoring solution.