Mitigating leakage and theft issues to save the integrity of water
Water has always been a precious resource worldwide. Water supply companies are custodians of a standardized delivery system for the rapidly growing water needs of the customers. But the industry is constantly bogged down with outdated technology, poor infrastructure, lack of assets, and fast escalating revenue losses that have driven them to the edge of bankruptcy.
Much of the losses faced by water companies can be attributed to Non-Revenue Water (NRW). Non-Revenue Water is essentially the physical loss of water due to infrastructural reasons such as breakages and leakages in pipes, or apparent losses such as meter inaccuracies, theft, unauthorized connections, and so on.
The hole in the ship
In a recent article that talked about ‘Quantifying the global non-revenue water problem’, it was found that water revenue loss from NRW amount to nearly $39 Bn every year. Although there are several causes of concern when it comes to NRW, inferior pipeline infrastructure and subpar maintenance are currently the primary causes of concern. Also, according to market research done by Insight Partners nearly $1.5 Bn is lost every year due to pipeline leakages alone. Poor installation, midline burst, bad maintenance quality, and leaking joints, are a few other factors adversely affecting the pipeline infrastructure quality.
Another major issue, stymying both rural and urban areas, is the growing demand for sanitized water. A substantial hike in demand has ramifications, such as people resorting to water theft, carrying out unauthorized connections directly from the main water line, or even from storage reservoirs.
Another key challenge that has surfaced in the last few years on the operations front is the technology integration between legacy-based operational controls and advanced assets and devices. Implementing variations in a legacy system can cause operational bottlenecks for the water companies. It is now imperative for them to upgrade their operational controls and asset management for swifter development and reduction in losses.
To address such losses and mitigate this financial turmoil, the water companies need a sophisticated leakage monitoring and theft detection system that can help maintain network infrastructure, besides regulating asset profiling and standard maintenance.
The much-needed lifeboat
In this age of fast-paced technology, water companies are evolving their mode of operations from dated legacy systems to new-age devices. The immense pressure for curbing leakage and losses has compelled the companies to adopt the processing of demographic details of consumers captured from various technological devices. The use of a whole array of IoT devices, such as system regulators, flow valves, pressure valves, temperature sensors, and smart meters; coupled with the analytical insights generated from data that these devices present, has armed water companies with the power to make strategic operations decisions. Such decisions not only assure revenue but also curtail leakages present within the system.
The solutions provided will also trigger custom alerts in case of suspicious activity and simultaneously investigate the same. For example, an unusual pattern in fluid parameters can trigger an alert for irregular and suspicious action in the system which post scrutiny could turn out to be a cyberattack on the water systems. It is estimated that leakages can be reduced by as much as <1% with continuous monitoring and an effective analytical interface.
An integration of leakage and theft detection tools with new upcoming technologies such as IoT devices and SMART grid initiatives will provide an array of opportunities to reduce revenue losses. Theft detection solutions can help identify the prevalent metering issues and incorporation of unauthorized water connections into the billable system while paving the way for revenue reconciliation. Moreover, using its behavioral analytics function, theft detection tools can provide insights into the loss patterns of an organization and provide remedial suggestions to mitigate the losses.
Having a theft detection and leakage monitoring solution in their arsenal will yield the desired revenue boost for the water companies. Integrating this technology with the smart metering infrastructure and smart grid solutions will provide them with a competitive edge to make their systems completely leak-proof. Proper utilization and maintenance of assets, status reporting and device profiling using leakage monitoring will enhance the longevity and productivity of the assets.
The presence of smart meters, smart grid initiatives, and IoT devices have established that we live in a small, compact, and well-connected world. While combatting theft and leakage issues, these devices can come into play to resolve global issues regarding NRW and eventually save the sinking water economy.