Is your city running out of water? The first place to look to find more

Thu, 2016-01-21 13:46 -- Kevin Ebi

On a global basis, there’s no question that water is in short supply. According to United Nations estimates, one out of six people don’t have enough. And between swelling populations and prolonged droughts, supplies could get even shorter. The global agency says two-thirds of the world could be struggling with water shortages within the next 10 years.

With supplies tight and becoming more constrained, cities have no choice but to get smarter about where they get their water and how they get the most use from it.

Waste not, want not
The first step is to stop wasting the water you already have. It’s a serious problem. In the U.S., each day 6 billion gallons of clean water vanishes before it even reaches homes and businesses. That’s enough water to fill nearly 10,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. Every day.

By some estimates, as much as 18% of the country’s water is simply lost due to aging infrastructure, leaky pipes and faulty meters. It’s even worse worldwide; the World Bank says nearly a third of the world’s water is wasted.

That’s a lot of waste, and you don’t even have to eliminate very much of it to make a big difference. Eliminate just half the world’s water waste, the World Bank says, and you’d have enough water for 90 million people.

Admit you have a problem — and measure it
Washington Monthly says it’s impossible for utilities to replace and modernize all of their infrastructure fast enough. So, the solution is sensors and analytics. Cities need to know where their water is going so they can focus their attention first on the biggest sources of waste.

Some experts say too much attention is centered on trying to get consumers to conserve more. The fact is, much of the waste occurs within utilities themselves.

What can you do?
Cities that have acknowledged that and taken appropriate action have achieved dramatic results. In Olds, Ontario, some 39% of the town’s water was lost between treatment and the meters. In just the first six months after deploying water analytics from Council Lead Partner Itron, the town had plugged nearly two dozen service line leaks, recovering nearly 300,000 cubic meters of water.

Wireless technology is also making it easier than ever for cities to deploy sensors. Cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Atlanta are adding sensors to their existing infrastructure, sensors that connect to wireless networks to relay the results back for analysis. Council Lead Partners IBM and AT&T are working in this way to give cities very early warning on potential leaks.

An important new source of water may be the one you already have.

Use these resources to plan your next steps…
Water utilities: Dump your old business model (because you need a new one now)
What Murfeesboro, Tenn., is doing to curb its water waste
A drought-proof Silicon Valley? 2 ways recycled water is helping
How Mammoth Lakes found 32 million gallons of water in dried-up lakes
The 'new' threat to water supplies: contamination from hospital waste