Ferrara: Smart Water Networks, or: No Water Left Behind

May 20, 2010 at 5:33 am Leave a comment

Blogging from the Water Efficiency Conference in Ferrara, Italy.

The Water Efficiency Conference is proving so far to provide a deep look into the core issues surrounding water efficiency initiatives:

  • Looking at the real cost of water to measure what the economically efficient investment in leakage reduction should be
  • Emphasizing both leak control and the reduction of consumption

FerraraAlthough the exhibition floor  is full of pipes and valves (as a company with strong software roots and a software-as-a-service model, this can’t cease to amaze us), the discussion in the conference itself asserts that the key to the future is using data-related methods to make efficient use of water. Many of the talks touch on a future with a smart water network: better planning, better instrumentation and better data analysis.

Some takeaways and soundbytes:

  • Mary-Ann Dickinson, the President of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, which usually looks at changing the ways consumers use water and how regulatory and industry forces create standards for that (from billing to fixtures) talked about controlling water demand, but admonished listeners “don’t forget the network [losses]” and “no water should be ‘unaccounted for’”.  Perhaps, just like the “no student left behind” legislation, there should be “no water left behind” initiatives as well.
  • The conference was also a good review of existing water loss reduction best practices, such as zoning and other approaches supported by the Water Loss Task Force. Chiara Ziveri of Enia (a large regional Italian utility) described an ongoing leakage reduction program that has been ongoing for many years. In their experience proper zoning and good monitoring have driven Non-Revenue-Water down dramatically. Other speakers also described utility experiences with DMAs, metering, and modelling, helping to drive down leakage.
  • On the consumer side, where water conservation matters too, Giovanni Cipola of Enolgas described a leak detection solution for the home consumer. A typical motion sensor (of the sort found in burglar alarms) detects when the house is probably empty, and if the consumption remains consistently above zero, even when the property is unoccupied, and alert is triggered, or the service connection is shut off. Additional sensor types may be combined for more reliable and more precise alerts. 
  • Tim Waldron, Water loss Task Force Chair and Wide Bay Water CEO, gave the day’s funniest talk, with a great “snapshot” of Water Loss Control techniques, examples and thinking. Some of the ones we liked are (1) “Long running small leaks lose more water than big bursts” [which are quickly found and fixed] (2) Pressure management reduces total leakage volume, but the greatest savings come from having less individual bursts, and (3) “Extending asset life is worth far more than the water saved”.
    Tim also discussed drive-by AMR used to identify customer-side leakage, and even characterise for customers whethere they have a leaky tap or toilet, by characterising their (non-zero) minimum flow.
  • Malcolm Farley, author of “losses in water distribution networks” and a member of the Water Loss Task Force talked about existing and emerging leak detection technology. He even promised an upcoming book on the same topic. Malcolm suggested we could soon be monitoring networks effectively without DMAs. Metering and analysis will replace  physical network changes – just the type of future outlook we at TaKaDu support. Utilities will control and understand the network by using data rather than replace whole swaths of pipe to make sure there are no leaks. Malcolm spoke about multi-parameter sensors that collect several indicators at once, such as flow, pressure, and noise. This means more data coming in to utilities and more opportunity to use it to create a smart water network. 
  • Malcolm also spoke about the trend towards smaller, cheaper, more easily deployed sensors in a variety of technologies and touched upon hydraulic models and inverse network solvers beginning to “come of age”. They are not a precise tool yet, but something to add to “the toolbox”. We promise to blog about the pros and cons of hydraulic models in the near future. He suggested we are still waiting for technology that is low cost, non-intrusive and accurate for critical situations. Our take: automated data analysis, coupled with all that good data the modern utility collects, could be a good contender for just those titles.
    For the more distant future, Malcolm hopes to see “Intelligent pipes” which know when they need a repair or a rest from excess pressure, advanced pipe repair techniques, and Continuous real-time monitoring. We couldn’t say it better ourselves.

Entry filed under: Industry events, Leaks and Bursts, Water Cost. Tags: , , , , , .

How Much Does Water REALLY Cost? Presenting at the CICC forum in Palo Alto, CA

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