Man walking in torrential rain. Credit: Antonio Rocha

+ New technology could help households and water companies use a precious resource more efficiently.

Technological advances are driving massive changes in the way water is used and managed. Water authorities and communities around the world need to understand this and rethink how they plan for future water use.

This was what our recent study The Future of Urban Water revealed. We conducted it in partnership with Sydney Water and what it shows has implications for cities around the world that are striving to make their water systems resilient and adaptable.

I think that, increasingly, technology will help people manage their water use by giving them more information about their water bills. Real-time monitoring will mean you can see how much water you’re using and when you’re using it – with everything easily accessible on your smartphone. I expect you’ll even be able to see data for each room of your house.

This level of detail will enable households to identify water leaks they don’t know they have, and which cost both them and the water authorities money. They’ll also be able to see clearly how their water usage affects their bills.

New real-time technology could also enable water companies to adopt peak and off-peak billing models – like power companies. They could then use pricing incentives to influence customers’ behaviour – encouraging them to use less water at peak times.

Water companies need to use technology to streamline their operations too. They could use real-time data to spot leaks, minimise their energy costs by pumping off-peak, consider ways to automate their systems, and reduce overall operational expenditure. 

Our study found that smart water networks could save the industry US$12.5bn a year. In Israel, data analytic company TaKaDu takes information supplied by sensors and meters dotted around a water company’s supply network to build a sophisticated picture of how the network is performing. It can spot anomalies in its behaviour, from a small leak to a burst water main. 

The technology is already here. Now we need to let it help us learn from one another about how to better manage water. Ultimately this will be good for customers, good for the water industry and good for cities.