On Monday Oracle released the results of a survey into the perception of, and future plans for, smart meter technology in the water industry in the US and Canada. The report “Testing the Water: Smart Metering for Water Utilities” (available from here) included the views of more than 1,200 water consumers and 300 water utility managers.
The report revealed that there are concerns among water customers:
• 76% recognise the need to conserve water.
• 69% believe they could reduce their personal water use.
• 71% believe that having more detailed information on their water consumption would encourage them to take steps to lower their use.
At the same time, water utility managers showed commitment to promoting water conservation:
• 73% say their utility actively promotes water conservation.
• 68% believe that adopting smart meter technologies is critical, although only one-third are currently considering or implementing the technology.
The most significant benefits of smart meter technology were cited as enabling early leak detection (62%), followed by supplying customers with tools to monitor/reduce water use (35%). Inhibiters to implementation are lack of cost recovery or measurable return on investment (46%) and upfront utility expenses (42%).
It’s a reminder that smart grids are not just for energy providers. The power companies get most coverage because the drivers are clearer and there are more of them; greenhouse gas emissions, energy costs, carbon costs, renewable energy integration, energy security, micro generation, etc. And these drivers are pretty much universal. In the case of water, there is concern around the world about future shortages, but in many countries it is a less urgent issue, with less invested interests in pushing the issue. In the UK we don’t even have universal coverage of any sort of meter – water is often charged on a flat rate. (Maybe that will help a jump to smart meters).
Smart water meters are certainly coming and will be inevitable in the long run. It’s another green ICT opportunity for those players that have a utilities sector focus.