Smart Water Networks for Sustainable Urban Water Security

The development of Smart Water Networks (SWN) for suppliers of water services is closely linked to the emergence of new business cases, which call at the same time to efficiency gains, resiliency and supply security improvements, water quality enhancements, and new services to the customers.

The 2016 World Water Development Report published by UNESCO emphasizes that “about 30% of global water abstraction is lost through leakage. Many water supply systems still incur large losses and inefficiencies. Even in developed countries the loss in water supply systems can be higher than 30%, with cities such as London reaching 25% (Thames London, 2014) and Norway 32% (Statistics Norway, 2015). Given the growth of urbanization and the rise of demand for water, improving the efficiency of water use and reducing leakages by maintaining and upgrading ageing infrastructures are critical”.

It is projected that populations living in urban areas will almost double, from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2050 (UN DESA, 2011). At the same time, the water cycle is principally driven by climate; and increasing variability in precipitation and evaporation patterns due to climate change are expected to exacerbate spatial and temporal variations in water supply and demand. Therefore, the combination of on one hand rising water demand, and on the other hand emerging climate change effects on water resources availability, will increase the risks of water shortage. One solution to this equation lies in the improvement of water networks efficiency though their real-time monitoring and preemptive leak detection.

Artificial intelligent systems are now available for implementing early warning systems capable of detecting water quality anomalies by correlating online measurement of physico-chemical parameters and their historical records. Such innovative quality control systems can now be used to raise alerts whenever these physico-chemical parameters follow unexpected patterns and to launch corrective measures before the drawback effects have reached their climax.

The growing use of Automated Meter Reading (AMR) offers new tools for cycling analysis of water inputs and outputs in the water networks, allowing for a precise and accurate picture of the systems’ behavior at an unprecedented level.

Early preemptive anomaly detection and remedial intervention for fixing problems in water networks have a strong potential for benefits in terms of reducing the leaks, limiting the impacts of water quality event, improving the maintenance, and prolonging the lifespan of the infrastructure. Inexpensive AMR solutions for large cities of developing countries still need to emerge, but the huge potential of SWN application once demonstrated, will certainly drive the market.

UNESCO International Hydrological Program (IHP) is dedicated to disseminate scientific knowledge for fulfilling the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) in particular objective N°6 on universal access to drinking water and sanitation. A specific focal area on ‘Game Changing Approaches’ has been defined in IHP 8th phase (2014-2021), in which the development of SWN is one of the top priorities. UNESCO is therefore engaged in gathering experiences and reporting on demonstration projects related to SWN. For this purpose UNESCO-IHP, the EU sponsored SmartWater4Europe (SW4EU) Research & Development Consortium and the W-SMART Association have agreed to jointly issue a stakeholders’ awareness building and professional education book on Smart Water Network Development & Management, expected for November 2017.

This purpose of the SWN Newsletter is to promote experience sharing among professionals and industry-wide knowledge dissemination of innovative developments of state-of-the-art technology solutions, briefly present leading SWN projects worldwide and report on R&D projects conducted by the SW4EU partners while introducing breaking news and events. This issue introduces:

  • On-going projects in industrialized countries, with the installation of London AMR system, as well as in developing countries such as India and Peru illustrating their growing interest in SWN systems for increasing their system efficiency and reducing public health risks
  • Latest developments of SWN applications for preemptive leak detection and pollution control and their demonstration in the SW4EU demonstration sites.
  • Case study survey on SWN deployment inviting Executives and Experts of Water Utility to share their experience in SWN deployment and impacts monitoring facing operational, economic or environmental challenges of sustainable water supply in their regions.

Bruno Nguyen, UNESCO-IHP, Bord of Experts – Prof. Ilan Juran, CEO, W-SMART Association