Competition, drought spur flood of smart water technologies

The squeeze on water supplies from drought and growing competition for water is driving a move toward increased water use efficiency, in part through smart technologies. Sustainable water stewardship requires not only water innovation in water reuse, recycling and treatment technologies, such as desalination, but smarter ways of using water.

This smart water thinking in many ways mirrors the GeSI SMARTer2020 initiative by the information and communication (ICT) sector to leverage smart technologies to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The role of ICT in creating a sustainable future is outlined in the GeSI's SMARTer2020 report, which documents how the technologies, such as video conferencing, smart motors and controls and smart building management, could cut the projected 2020 global greenhouse gas emissions by 16.5 percent. That amounts to $1.9 trillion in gross energy and fuel savings and a reduction of 9.1 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases.

The application of smart technology is already transforming the water industry. Smart water networks can reduce operating costs by reducing leakage, energy use and system maintenance costs.

The market for smart water networks is one of the fastest growing markets for water technology. It is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 14 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to Global Water Intelligence. The market opportunity is expected to grow from approximately $3.6 billion to roughly $6.9 billion.

The breakdown for smart water network technology market, according to Global Water Intelligence:
• 41 percent: smart leakage management
• 37 percent: smart metering and customer services
• 20 percent: smart network optimization
• 2 percent: smart solutions for water quality monitoring

Smart water networks can lead to more efficient use of water and improved operating efficiency for water utilities.

The largest single country market for smart water networks is the U.S., with an estimated 24 percent of the global market. The market was valued at nearly $900 million in 2013.

Look for smart technologies to drive greater water efficiency and stem water losses (leakage) in water utility distribution systems. Smart and sustainable technologies are the only path forward to address the need for adequate water for ecosystems, industry, agriculture and domestic needs in a world with more demand than supply.

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