Smart Water Infrastructure Continues to Grow, but Real Challenges Persist
Grant Gerke | March 8, 2017
By Grant Gerke, Contributing Writer, IIoT
A new report from Bluefield Research suggests that a massive smart infrastructure buildout is coming to the water and wastewater industry in the next eight years, with more than $20 billion to be spent in metering, data management, and analytics.
As devices, sensors and cloud solutions become cheaper over the next ten years, there will be a solid investment in this space but the research rings a little hollow to me. The U.S. industry, in particular, is aging and resources are limited but the big challenge may be in the area of system integrators. In a feature article from a couple years ago, I interviewed Roger Knutson, public works director at the biggest water and wastewater department in Minnesota. For Knutson, the real challenge was in overseeing software and plant monitoring upgrades to multiple plants with his own internal staff. System integrators weren’t in the budget.
“So, the real challenge is to maintain the different technologies during that timeframe,” says Knutson. We’re talking about the new and old versions of software running side-by-side at different plants or just at different plants.”
Even the Bluefield research report says that “a significant hurdle will be integrating legacy systems with new software platforms.” However, the challenge may be workflow processes, the less glamorous side of the asset management and IIoT narrative.
Other highlights from the research include:
• Halving non-revenue water– leaks and billing errors– and reducing energy consumption from 20% to 40%.
• The smart water sector is expected to scale to $12 billion in the US and $11 billion in Europe by 2025. Other hotspots for smart water activity include Australia, Singapore and Israel, where water stress and established utility network operators are more receptive to advanced technology adoption.
• European utilities are at the forefront of smart water in terms of operational solutions, while the US leads in terms of metering.