Growth in water demand is pushing utilities to turn to infrastructure technologies to improve their operational efficiency, Pike said in a new report. One of the most important strategies for utilities will be the installation of smart water meters on customers’ premises, and Pike expects 31.8 million of these units to be installed by 2016, up from 8 million in 2010.
The annual market revenues for smart water meters will reach $856 million by the end of 2016, a 110 percent increase over 2010 levels, Pike said.
Other technologies that water utilities are installing include advanced sensor networks and automation systems to allow more accurate leak detection, Pike said.
“Water metering alone has a powerful conservation impact,” research analyst Jevan Fox said. “Studies show that using water meters to bill customers based on their actual consumption cuts water use by 15 percent or more. When water suppliers add meter reading automation to the mix, the conservation impact is even more significant.”
Smart water meters will help businesses figure out how much water they’re using and how to save water, IBM vice president of Big Green Innovations Sharon Nunes wrote in a column for Environmental Leader.
But the water utility market is highly fragmented in many parts of the world, posing a challenge to the adoption of advanced metering, Fox said. Labor issues can limit the acceptance of automated meter reading, and if meters are not read frequently enough, this limits the cost savings of automation, Fox added.
Technological challenges include limited wireless bandwidth in some areas, as well as a lack of global technological standards, Fox said.