Looking for a quick-payoff project? Look into smart water

Wed, 2013-09-25 06:00 -- Jesse Berst

A Forbes post from Heather Clancy recaps the numbers that make smart water projects so economically compelling. They may help make the case for water modernization in your city. We've listed a few highlights below, or jump to the post for the full story. -- Jesse Berst

smart water30% -- average amount of water lost to leaks or unbilled usage in U.S. city water utilities according to Navigant Research. In other words, 30% of the water that is pumped up, filtered, treated and then pumped out again to customers never makes it to its destination (or makes it there but is stolen or does not get billed because of a technical failure).

38% -- average amount of water lost in emerging nations according to the Northeast Group consultancy.

$14 billion -- annual value of that lost water worldwide according to the World Bank.

$46.5 billion -- annual spending on smart water technology in emerging nations by 2023 according to the Northeast Group consultancy.

In Forbes and another post for GreenBiz.com, Clancy cites these four municipal projects:

  1. Albuquerque: Smart meters for Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, which covers about 350 square miles and serves a population of 670,000, manages about 200,000 residential meter connections and 850 commercial customers. "Although I can't share the information yet, the [return on investment] was a lot shorter than I was expecting," said division manager Hobert Warren during a Navigant seminar.
  2. Dubuque, Iowa: Working with Smart Cities Council Lead Partner IBM, Dubuque has reduced water usage by 6.6 percent (about 3,400 gallons per household) and saved $191,000 annually.
  3. Nashville: About 45,000 smart water meters.
  4. San Francisco: A $50 million project using 177,000 new meters. This has enabled the city to reduce costs for meter reading and billing, investigate unusual consumption patterns earlier to check for leaks, and eliminate billing estimates in favor of up-to-the-minute statements.


Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to subscribe to SmartCitiesNow, the weekly newsletter highlighting smart city trends, technologies and techniques.