Executive Voices 5 mins read

Sustainability in water supply: Every drop counts

On 2021 Desertification and Drought Day, we can make a difference, by using technology to combat water wastage, shortages, drought and desertification.

Bernd Gross Bernd Gross

Just 2.5% percent of the world’s water reserves is fresh water. And most of this is not available to humans at all.

It is icebound in glaciers of the Arctic and Antarctic or lies deep underground. For us humans, that leaves only a tiny fraction of it: 0.3%.

According to Unicef, one in three people has no regular access to clean drinking water. Excessive demand growth in richer countries, along with wastage and leaks, is one reason. Increasing drought conditions are another.

This year, Syria, northern Iraq, Southwestern United States are all facing drought conditions. Severe droughts and heatwaves in Europe since 2014 are believed to be the most extreme for more than 2,000 years. Major droughts of the late 20th to early  21st centuries in southern Australia are likely without precedent over the past 400 years.

As technology providers, we have no influence on the amount of water available. But we can use intelligent water management to ensure that less of the available quantity is wasted, and the rest is distributed better and more fairly. With smart land management, using monitoring and analytics, we can help reverse and prevent desertification and drought.

Here are just some of the efforts already being made in the world:

Smart water monitoring in Australia

Telstra: Together with Telstra, one of Australia’s leading telecommunications and technology groups, we developed smart monitoring for water distribution networks using our cloud based Cumulocity IoT platform. The system enables near real-time monitoring of flow, pressure, water quality and leak detection with smart meters. If deviations occur, like a sudden drop in pressure in the pipe, built-in sensors send an alarm signal. The smart meters are managed and controlled via Telstra’s IoT platform and a cloud-based accelerator that accesses Cumulocity IoT. As a result, utilities can detect and fix problems with water pipes early, before even a drop is lost or contaminated. The system is making a valuable contribution to preventing the seepage of the commodity that is so scarce in Australia.

Busselton Water: Utility Busselton Water in western Australia serves more than 26,000 people. It, too, is using the Telstra and Software AG solution to reduce water waste. The utility’s long-term goal is not only to save water, but also to further develop the solution, for example, to reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint with the help of algorithms. Initial tests have already shown that the increased transparency, intelligent rules and smart monitoring have reduced leakage by up to 20%, energy costs by 15% and per capita consumption by between 10-35%.

Sustainable agriculture in India

India also struggles with water shortages – despite tremendous rainfall during monsoon seasons. Indian farmers must balance the use of available water at the right times to irrigate fields. The changeable weather makes irrigation even more difficult and there are weak points in the pumps, which often either do not work at all. This quickly leads to crop failures and famine.

A solution for this is also based on Software AG’s Cumulocity IoT: A special condition monitoring system helps to monitor the pumps running on solar power via mobile communications. A gateway integrated into the pumps reports its status every few minutes to an IoT platform, which monitors whether the pump is doing its job properly. If it does not, the system notifies the farmer via text message of the pump’s potential failure. Not only does the system help keep water flowing, but it’s also sustainable in other ways: when they’re not being used for irrigation, the pumps generate enough solar power to feed into the grid.

Cloud, data, IoT: Technology makes the difference

It is estimated that more than 126 billion cubic meters of water are lost worldwide every year – partly because pipes are defective, and the flow of this precious commodity is inadequately measured or monitored.

Clouds are important as a water dispenser in real life, but the cloud is just as critical in the virtual world – as the basis of a technological solution for data-driven, smart water management. Data from smart meters and other water management assets provide valuable information about system health and performance – relatively autonomously at the edge, but also as part of an IoT in a system-wide cloud infrastructure responsible for automated analysis of the data.

Smart water meters connected into cloud based IoT will play a critical role in the future in driving water demand, improving the customer experience, and reducing operating costs, as the examples from India and Australia powerfully demonstrate. They also show how an IoT can make a significant contribution to the protection of precious resources, even with relatively simple means and in technologically underdeveloped areas.

It’s not just time to act. Today, on 2021 Desertification and Drought Day, we can all make a difference. We can combat water wastage, shortages, drought and desertification together by using technology. As you can see, modern technologies from the cloud show how this can be done.

What are you waiting for? Every drop counts!