Is your city ready to tackle the challenge of the century?

Fri, 2014-12-19 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Christian Anderson contends that how we manage the energy/water nexus will define this century. He should know; Anderson (pictured above) is Director of Channel Management for the Itron North American Water Group which works with cities and utilities around the world to deploy smart technologies.

As energy and water become scarcer and because the two are so inter-connected, Anderson suggests it is incumbent on policymakers to break down the silos that often keep cities and utilities from talking to each other.

Anderson spoke during the Council's recent Smart Cities Now forum in San Diego.

City leaders should insist their water department is talking to the electric department and the gas department, he said. They should also explore public private partnerships (PPPs) as a way to move forward with smart water, smart electric and smart gas technologies that can solve infrastructure deficiencies.

Anderson mentioned a project in Bismarck, North Dakota where Itron, a Council Lead Partner, is helping modernize the city's water distribution system. An interesting piece of this particular PPP is that Bismarck will manage its water system using the Itron network already deployed by Montana-Dakota Utilities Company. Put another way, two separate entities are sharing the costs and benefits of a smart communications network.

Lawrence Jones, VP of Utility Innovations and Infrastructure Resilience with Council Lead Partner Alstom Grid, said as a technology provider his company often acts as a "broker" between cities and utilities. He echoed Anderson's point that having a dialog that involves all the key stakeholders -- water utilities, electric utilities, wastewater officials, etc. is essential to ensure the result is an integrated solution.

No longer is the talking point a "community energy management solution," Lawrence said. Today it should be "community resource management" with a more integrated approach to system planning.

Targeting water loss
With regions facing continuing drought situations and non-revenue water (NRW) loss at startling levels, Ken Thompson, Deputy Director of Intelligent Water Solutions for Council Associate Partner CH2M HILL, suggested that targeting water loss is the biggest opportunity cities have to tackle scarcity issues. In the U.S. and its territories, he said, water utilities average 30% NRW. That number is as high as 70% in some parts of the world.

Thompson mentioned the situation in Saipan where, until recently, 15% of its 40,000 residents had water only a few hours a day because the island was losing 70% of its potable water to leaky pipes and theft. CH2M HILL collaborated with Council Lead Partner Qualcomm to develop a wireless, machine-to-machine technology that keeps track of the water supply’s movement throughout the system -- and where it’s being lost.

The goal in Saipan is to reduce loss associated with theft and leaking pipes by two-thirds over the next five years, which will save the community millions of dollars in energy costs because treating and delivering water and collecting and treating wastewater require large amounts of energy. The new system will also provide higher quality of water to residents of Saipan and ensure that everyone receives water 24 hours a day.

From a regulatory perspective
California PUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval talked about the water situation facing her state where 80% of an increasingly scarce water supply is consumed by agriculture and outdoor watering accounts for most residential water use.

Sandoval also noted that 10% of the rural population of the U.S. lives in California and suggested cities should consider their relationship to rural and forest areas and the potential for working with irrigation districts and the like to conserve.

She also said the PUC is promoting adoption of LED lighting as a platform for reducing energy use and through connectivity multiple other uses too.

And speaking to an audience of smart cities advocates, Sandoval mentioned that a third of the population of California is low-income and 40% are renters. When you think smart cities, she said, think of them too.

Videos on smart water technologies…
SWAN: The Customer Benefits of Smart Water Networks
Qualcomm, CH2M HILL: Using Cellular Technology to Improve Water Management
IBM: Mobile Water Infrastructure for Smart Cities