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Why Conservation and Smart Metering Is Better for Your City Than Water Supply Expansion

Water resources are a concern for many cities, and resolving your water issues is not straightforward. If you are facing a potential shortage, you need to determine whether you need to increase conservation, expand supply, or both. The open question, thus, is: are you using your water supply efficiently enough? Solutions like smart meters are ideal for addressing this. 

Transparent bar graphs with water demonstrating smart meteringWhy Expanding Supply Is Seldom the Answer

The issue with expanding supply is fairly obvious; there is not always any way to get more supply. Attempting to obtain more water can place cities in conflict with each other or with other upstream needs, notably agriculture. These kinds of political fights can be expensive and potentially embarrassing.

That said, there are still ways to expand supply, but some of them have issues of their own:

  • Building a new reservoir. This inevitably involves the sacrifice of land, the potential displacement of humans and can have environmental implications; in fact, there is a move to remove dams rather than build new ones.
  • Desalination. Current desalination technology is less than efficient, although there are new things on the horizon, such as nanofilters. Desalinated water also tends to be hard on your residents’ plumbing, and desalination plants are expensive. Nonetheless, they can be the only choice for some coastal cities.
  • Alternative water supplies. These include rainwater collection, recycling, etc. While alternative supplies are good, they tend not to produce a lot of usable water.

Many cities are unable to expand their supply of drinking water and thus must resort to conservation. However, water conservation can be unpopular. Nobody likes being told when they are allowed to water their garden.

How Cities Can Use Their Water More Efficiently

So, from this, the answer is clearly to use water supplies in a more efficient manner. There are a number of ways in which you can do this, but the process starts with understanding how you are wasting water. Here are some things you might be able to do to reduce the amount of water used:

  • Improve leak detection through increased surveillance and the use of smart meters that alert to water use increases in real time.
  • Loss prevention to detect and deal with unauthorized use.
  • Encourage efficient fixtures such as low flow showers and toilets. This starts by installing these fixtures in municipal buildings. Provide incentives for households and businesses to upgrade their fixtures. The best place to start is by replacing any toilets installed before 1992.
  • In much the same way, encourage and incentivize the purchase of appliances that use less water. For example, top loading laundry machines use more water than front loaders.
  • Plant local and drought tolerant trees and plants in parks and other public areas, so as to reduce irrigation. Xeriscaping, a kind of water efficient landscape design, should be deployed wherever possible. Educate homeowners and businesses on how to make their landscaping less thirsty. Use recycled or gray water for irrigation. (Gray water is water that has been used for showering, hand washing, or cooking, but not disposal of human waste).
  • Install irrigation timers that irrigate landscaping only at night and incentivize other property owners to do the same. Irrigating at night reduces water loss due to evaporation.

Determine What to Do With a Water Audit

In order to determine which of these measures, or others, are best for your city you should do an audit and analysis. Start by introducing smart meters. These meters measure water use in real time and thus can spot any unusual patterns that might indicate a link in real time. They are also better for homeowners in a number of ways.

Smart meters allow you to do a full data analysis of your water usage. You can find leaks and unauthorized usage and also identify ways in which your residents could potentially save water. For example, you may notice that a lot of people are irrigating in the morning and encouraging irrigation at night (or banning it during the day) may save your city a lot of money.

Once you have audited your water use, you can move on to implement sensible conservation measures that can help you avoid having to find a way to expand your supply, which is expensive both financially and, potentially, politically. Expansion of supply should be considered only when conservation has failed. To schedule an analysis and triage of your water use data, contact Envocore today.

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