Location is fundamental to the water smart grid

Esri recently participated in the 1st Smart Water Grid Conference in Incheon, Korea.  The focus of the conference was the current state of smart grid water technology, the future of the water smart grid and fostering collaboration between key smart grid companies and technologists.  Repeatedly discussion about the water smart grid hinged on the importance of geography and the necessity of a location platform to bring together the various pieces that comprise the smart grid.

While the definition of the water smart grid is evolving, the general consensus among the attendees was the water smart grid is a combination of sensors, software, people and other components that are required to enable the near-real-time management of water and wastewater distribution systems driving the improvement of utility operations.  The primary benefits of the smart water grid presented throughout the plenary and technical sessions included:

  • The reduction in cost through decreased water loss and energy consumption
  • Increases in water quality through more precise monitoring of water quality
  • Extending supplies through conservation efforts
  • Improved customer service by more transparent communication with customers and decreased response time through real-time awareness of emergency events.

Haven’t utilities always worked towards these goals?  In truth they have, however, it has been somewhat ad hoc at the individual employee to department level versus holistically at the organization level in near-real-time using ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) to link it all together from water source to customer.

The smart water grid will be rolled out in several phases and utilities that have a location platform in place will see immediate benefits.  What does this mean?  Existing GIS implementations are the start.  Ensuring that current network data is accurate and available in a way that it can be shared with the entire utility is the first step.  Next opening up this information to all aspects of the utility sets the stage for the smart water grid.  Geographic information about water utility assets needs to be shared with contractors, field personal, office personal, engineering personnel, and customers, as well as other enterprise utility business systems such as SCADA and AMI.

Each of these groups and technologies are part of the smart grid and linked together by asset location and geography.  Once the asset location information is available and shared, and other information from a few key systems are linked anything is possible.  Meter zones can be mapped and flow meters installed to determine a baseline for water loss.  Theft can be identified through comparisons of neighborhoods, overlays of customer data with land base and imagery, and analyzing the type of customer based on location and average water rates.

Ultimately utilities will be able to geographically profile customers and proactively let them know they have a leak somewhere in their house.  Think back to the last time you discovered a slow leak in your toilet wasting water and running your bill up.  The smart grid enabled water of the utility of the future would have called you almost immediately after the leak began.

As utilities implement new meters, sensors, and software to build out their water smart grids, the importance of a water utility wide location platform to integrate and enable the grid and the return on investment in the location platform exponentially increases.

Now that we’ve examined the importance of a utility location platform for the water smart grid, we’ll follow up shortly with a more in depth blog about key water smart grid standards, technologies and integration with the ArcGIS Platform.

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