Talk of smart water networks is not new. Water companies have installed battery-powered data loggers on critical network assets for many years. These loggers have typically been expensive to purchase, install and maintain. The high cost meant relatively few have been deployed and the limitations imposed by the restricted battery life led to data being collected, for example, once a day. Unsurprisingly, given the low number of data collection points, the network management impact of these devices has been limited.
Today, however, as I write this article, smart water networks are arriving in a city or town near you. United Utilities has unveiled Macclesfield as the site of the UK’s first smart water town; Yorkshire Water is piloting a smart water network in Sheffield; and, AVK is running trials with a number of water companies and customers including Hafren Dyfrdwy, Severn Trent, Yorkshire Water, Anglian Water, Wessex Water and Cork County Council. The products and systems in these trials are themselves the results of AVK’s Smart Water development programme and testing which formally began in 2019, but which is built on over twenty years of experience in smart technologies.
AVK Smart Water is an AVK Group initiative. It brings together ATI and ACMO in Italy, AVK Tech in Denmark, and AVK UK product development. The communications and cloud technology that underpins the AVK Smart Water programme, for example, has been developed by ASW-ATI, an AVK Group company based in Italy. ASW-ATI’s pedigree in smart technology is built on many years’ experience of delivering smart solutions into international irrigation markets.
Practical experience of developing and deploying smart products at scale is provided by AVK Group’s smart metering company, Flonidan. Flonidan introduced one of the first smart gas meters at the start of the 1990’s and it is currently supplying meters as part of the UK’s smart meter roll-out programme.
The impetus for AVK’s major investment in smart water solutions comes from the recognition by water companies around the world of the need to have greater control of their physical infrastructure. From the UK perspective, the growth in smart water activity has been driven by a ‘perfect storm’ of technology, changes in the regulatory regime, and water company engagement.
Ofwat has set water companies challenging leakage reduction targets. Monitoring and managing water pressure is a major weapon in tackling leakage, and measuring and relaying real time network data is something smart assets, such as AVK’s smart valves, are ideal for.
There are now major product manufacturers and consultants with significant smart water offers and experience. This is particularly true of those organisations, like AVK, which are active on the global stage and can call on lessons learnt from different smart water scenarios drawn from the markets in which they operate.
A reduction in leakage, is just one aspect of an increased focus on customer service in the water sector. Water companies want to be able to identify and remedy problems before they impact on their customers. Having a smart sensor on every valve, hydrant and pump detecting and communicating changes in pressure, temperature and flow in almost real-time enables water companies to react quickly to problems and maintain supply.