Many technologies and best practices can help cities develop a smart water system. Five targets specifically relate to water and wastewater and will be discussed in detail below. We’ll also talk about several of the universal targets as they apply to smart water.
Implement optimal instrumentation and control across the watershed. We’ve addedon to this universal target to remind you that most cities will need information that extends beyond their city boundaries. A smart water network uses sensors to capture data on the condition of the water and the equipment. These devices are installed in both traditional and non-traditional segments of the watershed – from the pipes and pumps to green water systems in gardens or rooftops that collect storm runoff or grey water. As noted above (and as illustrated in the case study from the Netherlands), cities will want to collaborate to gather data not just within city limits, but from the larger watershed as well.
Smart water networks also utilize sensors that monitor water quality. This may include tracking different grades of water to ensure they are properly routed for the appropriate end use.
In addition to sensors for the physical infrastructure, some cities will want to consider smart water meters. In regions with conservation mandates, smart meters can give customers the detailed information they need to curb consumption. Smart meters can also reduce the need for additional sensors on pipes, pumps and switches.
Connect devices with citywide, multi-service communications. This universal target applies equally to water. It is worth reminding, however, that most cities should NOT build a communications network just for smart water purposes. Instead, they should seek to piggyback on an existing network. Or share costs with other departments to build a system they all can use. For instance, in Tianjin China, a single communications network carries the signals for smart meters of several different kinds.
Adhere to open standards. Hydrologic data collections and sensor feeds are notoriously non-interoperable. By using open standards such as the new OGC WaterML 2.0 Encoding Standard, diverse data collections can be quickly discovered, assessed, accessed, aggregated, compared, used with other spatial data (weather, geology, elevation etc.), and flowed between computer models.
Create and adhere to a citywide data management, transparency and sharing policy, including water usage data. In the Universal chapter, we discussed the merits of a citywide data management policy. In this chapter, we want to recommend additional rules that apply specifically to water.
Cities may not own their own municipal water utility, but they will want to have access to overall usage data provided by the local utility. It’s important to ensure that the data conforms to the citywide data management policy, even if it originated elsewhere. Cities will also want to encourage utilities to grant water customers access to their own consumption data so they can see hour-by-hour how, when and where they use water. Armed with this type of information, they can make choices and tradeoffs that can reduce their water usage and their utility bills.
From a smart city perspective, water usage data is invaluable for long-range planning, for making zoning decisions, for water efficiency programs, for low-income assistance programs – and for setting an example by reducing water consumption in city facilities.
Consider a cloud computing framework. With the cost of cloud services declining, this universal target can make sense for cities large and small. It is particularly germane to the water sector in North America. In that part of the world there are few large water companies. Instead, water is managed by more than 18,000 small- to medium-sized organizations. Few of them have the budget for a large ICT staff and powerful server farms. Yet they can get the same power and benefits as larger organizations by turning to software-as-a-service running in the cloud.
Have access to a central GIS. A central geographic information system (GIS) improves decision-making capabilities city-wide, hence its inclusion as a universal target. Two reminders germane to water: 1) In many parts of the world the water system is well over 100 years old and many water utilities don’t know exactly where all the pipes and valves are located. 2) A city water department should seek to share costs with other departments if it needs to build a GIS system from scratch. A central GIS enables efficiency gains through more intelligent scheduling and routing, provides improved accuracy of essential records and boosts resiliency of key assets.
Achieve full situational awareness across the watershed, informed by weather data. Situational awareness is a universal target. When it comes to the water responsibility, it means getting a complete view of what’s happening across a watershed. Such insight is essential for cities that want to ‘close the loop’ and promote sustainability by relying on their local watershed rather than importing water from elsewhere. That situational awareness should be further expanded by including local and regional weather data. Weather data can help give an accurate view of current conditions and can help predict future problems.