Technology & Water: How 5G and IoT Can Update Our Water Infrastructure

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Technology & Water- As water scarcity poses threats around the globe, the water sector — acting as the steward of a precious resource—is facing critical challenges that contribute to the issue. The two main challenges are tighter city budgets and aging infrastructure. For example, an average city anywhere in the world loses 20% to 40% of its potable water each year due to infrastructure leaks—this can amount to almost 22 billion gallons of water for a large city. Fortunately, water utilities are embracing new technologies that, when powered by 5G, could let us harness critical information and transform how water is managed in the near future and beyond.

The Landscape Today

As leaders at WaterStart, a nonprofit association for water resources agencies that are focused on adapting to changes globally, we know that 5G could not have come at a better time. The ability to take advantage of high-speed data transfer in the water sector is more critical now than ever.

On the most basic level, every water utility is responsible for providing a secure and sustainable water supply, which means managing water reservoirs, controlling and maintaining the pipes and pumps that move water and monitoring the sewer systems. This accounts for a lot of infrastructure, generating massive amounts of data that needs to be transmitted and analyzed to help understand if everything is working properly or if improvements need to be made.

Water infrastructure currently faces three big challenges that we believe 5G technology could help solve: Aging infrastructure, fast-changing environmental scenarios like droughts and floods tied to climate change, and the need for better remote access. We are already seeing how technology can help equipment run more efficiently so that utilities can save money, and know that with the help of 5G, we could see those efficiencies advance significantly.

In the last couple of years, IoT devices like sensors and meters have become vital tools in preparing and upgrading systems while simultaneously lowering costs by making utilities run much more efficiently. The cost savings alone are huge drivers of adopting these technologies. Water utilities are often the largest user of electricity in any town because of the sheer size of the pumps, which can range in size from that of a small car to that of a small city block. Moreover, the cost of water has exponentially outpaced wage growth and inflation. But with IoT devices monitoring those pumps, it’s been shown that up to 10% of energy costs can be reduced – which, in the scheme of things, is huge.