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  • Writer's pictureBobbi Harris

From Desert to Drought

Three overnight flights is all it takes to get from Palm Springs, California to Cape Town, South Africa...but these places 12,000 miles apart have a great deal in common. 

This month I spent a week in the the desert southwest in Palm Springs for a utility conference and then flew to drought-ridden Cape Town for the African Utility Week conference and the stories I heard and the questions asked we very similar in both places...."On what technologies should utilities' spending focus?"  "What drivers and challenges are utility executives facing today? and tomorrow?"  "What are other utilities doing to solve the issues associated with critical infrastructure?"  "How will communicating devices change the way utilities do business?"  "And how will we pay for all the upgrades needed?"

Water utilities rarely trust new technologies or experiment easily. By the time they get to the party, the party is over. Solutions to non-revenue water (NRW) losses characterized by incorporating Internet of Things (IoT) technology are an important focus for utility executives as they provide common lessons across the utility sector. Use available technologies, but without innovation failure is inevitable, and with our aging infrastructure, telecom and data must be added to better understand where the leaks are. Water utilities need to be smarter, and not just with water, but also with electricity which is their second biggest cost. The right sensors in the right place mean utilities can analyze data and make better decisions.

Water utility leaders should create frameworks and procedures for gauging digital opportunities. However, in an environment where business as usual often suppresses innovation, the opportunities need to have a solid business case so that they are prioritize. Some utilities find that through the adoption of appropriate technology, like the use of IoT with smart metering, cloud solutions for analytics, and communications networks, they are able to prevent the non-revenue water loss caused by meter inaccuracy, and can recover lost revenue and deliver more accurate billing. The improved billing, leak detection with centralized control and enforcement of policies, and enhanced customer service through an exposed customer dashboard for real-time water usage and integrated convenient payment interfaces, prove their benefits to the utility time and again. 

Whether desert or drought, smart water technologies must be employed in order to support our growing needs. 

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