Water infrastructure globally needs major improvements.
Replacing US water pipes alone would cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years, according to the American Water Works Association.
This, coupled with increasing water scarcity, demands a huge investment in water distribution systems. A new report from Navigant Research says smart water products and technologies will play a growing role in upgrading and replacing these aging systems.
In another sign of the growing interest in smart water meters and networks, water technology firm Xylem recently announced it will buy Sensus for $1.7 billion — a deal that Xylem expects to boost its smart meter, network technologies and data analytics services.
According to the Navigant Research report, smart water network infrastructure will continue to be slowly upgraded until 2023, when growth will accelerate, according to the analysts’ forecast. Old, inefficient meters will be replaced by automated meter reading (AMR) and, eventually, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meters.
By 2025, the total smart water meter installed base is expected to exceed 1.3 billion meters. The increasing installed base will promote the growth of other smart water technologies like network monitoring and control devices, data management systems, and robust communications infrastructure.
Global revenue from smart water networks is projected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2016 to $7.2 billion in 2025, the report says.
“The take-away for smart water product manufacturers is that the market for their products is growing at a steady pace,” Navigant Research analyst Anne Wrobetz told Environmental Leader.
Lack of financing for large-scale water infrastructure projects is one of the main challenges to wider adoption, Wrobetz said. And because of this utilities are phasing in smart water meters over a span of several years.
“As a result, newer products are slow to get adopted,” she said. “However, as many older, mechanical meters are becoming worn out, inaccurate, or otherwise non-functional, utilities are replacing them with newer AMR and, increasingly, AMI devices. The main business opportunity lies in making deals with large water utilities for wide-scale rollouts of smart water products, especially in areas with high occurrence of water scarcity and drought. California is one of the most prolific markets for smart water products right now.”
Fountain Valley, California, for example, uses Sensus’ smart water network to conserve water and prevent leaks. Mark Sprague, the city’s utilities manager, says the smart water network alerts the city to high water users so it can work with them to find ways to use water more efficiently.
Not only do these systems save water, smart networks can save utilities money as well. Sensus says its technology can improve utilities’ system performance and reduce inefficiencies, resulting in up to $12.5 billion in annual savings.
On the other side of the US, smart water company Gutermann is helping Miami-Dade County, Florida keep its non-revenue water loss to less than 10 percent as its implements a $13.5 billion capital improvement upgrade to water and sewer infrastructure. Installing a network of remote, always-on measurement points to about 40 miles of water distribution lines throughout the service area allows the county to better pinpoint water leaks, reducing response time and man-hours for repairs to the system, Gutermann says.
Looking ahead, Wrobetz expects these types of service arrangement — in which companies offer software as a service, meter data management and maintenance of meters, among others — to become increasingly popular.
“A key reason utilities adopt smarter metering technologies is to reduce the amount of time their employees must spend in the field,” Wrobetz said. “So a company that offers these types of maintenance and monitoring services will be well-positioned to make sales to these utilities.”