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Smart Water Meters May Become the Hot New Thing

Gwinnett County, Georgia is taking part in a water program that could become a harbinger of the future: The Global Cities Team Challenge is smart city project that will employ so-called smart water meters that help crews find and fix water leaks sooner than in the past.

The problem is especially acute at a time when the region has endured droughts. Beyond finding leaks, consumers will be able to see their water usage in real time. That will help save water — and it’s similar to the technologies used by electric utilities to tip off companies as to when energy prices are spiking. That gives industrials a chance to shift their consumption patterns.

The county is teaming up AT&T, QualComm and Ch2M, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Smart meters — meters connected to the internet — are emerging technology,” county officials said in a statement. “The pilot project will allow DWR to evaluate how this technology can be employed to not only provide enhanced service to customers, but also allow DWR to continue being a good steward of the environment and plan for the future.”

AT&T is providing the wireless connectivity while QualComm is supplying the communication chips in the meters, the Gwinnett story said. CH2M is adding its project management expertise. The technology taps into Internet technologies to detect any leaks.

“During the technology test, the data from the Smart Cities Pilot Project may allow customers in the pilot study the ability to see their water use in real time, helping them manage their use and identify leaks or running toilets at their homes,” Deputy Director of Business Services Rick Reagan said in a statement. “This can help the customer save money as well as conserve water.”

A few years ago, the states of Georgia and Alabama battled over supplies during a severe drought in the southeastern United States: Georgia’s Lake Lanier, along with other bodies of water there, are providing water not just to the Atlanta metropolitan area but also to Alabama’s electric generators, manufacturing facilities and farm businesses.

The National Energy Renewable Laboratory has reported that the United States alone withdraws fresh water to the tune of nearly 1,500 gallons per capita each day. That includes 190 gallons a day for domestic and commercial use, 673 gallons each day for industrial use and 600 gallons every day for agricultural use.

“Water is the new oil,” says Jim Rogers, the former chief executive of Duke Energy, in a talk with this writer.

Finding and fixing water leaks could therefore become a valuable new asset.

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