A suite of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions are being rolled out and others are under development to address the many issues facing existing water supply infrastructure around the world. A critical issue that can be improved with the use of the technology is mitigating water loss, delivering enhanced water storage solutions, as well as improving meter reading, which will drive accurate billing.

Due to the impact of climate change and as the global population grows, existing water infrastructure is increasingly under enormous pressure. The 2020 UN World Water Report highlighted that water use has increased sixfold in the past century and continues to rise, while climate breakdown means that more areas of the world will see stress on their water supplies. This includes regions such as Europe, Asia and north America, where supplies were previously abundant.

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI) water infrastructure―treatment plants, pipes, and sewer systems―is in a state of disrepair around the world. The WRI also noted in a 2017 report that 6 billion gallons (22 billion litres) of treated water were lost per day in the USA due to leaky pipes alone.

Having embarked on a transformational journey from a traditional telco to a technology communications company, Vodacom Group, together with its subsidiary, IoT.nxt have devised and installed two IoT technology solutions in South Africa since the start of the year to improve water resource management. This forms part of an overall strategy to develop new approaches to address challenges faced by managers of water facilities. “The introduction of IoT technology to better manage water infrastructure has the potential to enhance efficiencies across the entire water supply chain. World Water Day, celebrated on 22 March this year, as well as South Africa’s Water week (15 to 22 March 2021) will amplify the global challenges, especially around the management of infrastructure. Those challenges informed the development of our solutions and we have recorded positive results with the projects already implemented,” says Richmond Nkambule, Business Development – Sales, at IoT.nxt.

The first project rolled out at the start of the year is at a district municipality in a rural area of South Africa that provides the municipality with a real time view of its water infrastructure. Faulty meters and accurate consumption can now be monitored, maintenance teams will receive instant alerts via email or SMS about faults, and corrective action can be taken in a very short time frame. Alerts include the GPS location of the meter, its status, flow rates and consumption.

“South Africa is one of the 30 driest countries in the world and increasingly, municipalities and other utility service providers are looking to innovative end-to-end connected solutions that enable utility operations like water and electricity to run more efficiently, reliably, safely, and cost-effectively. Our modem-driven, end-to-end software solution helps clients to implement advanced state-of-the-art analytics, revenue assurance and protection, and smart pre-payment to improve utilities’ operational performance”, says Peter Malebye, Managing Executive for IoT at Vodacom Business.

The other solution, a Smart Water Storage Management Solution, was installed at a large pharmaceutical company in Johannesburg to drive efficiencies, reduce risk and help create water security within its office park. The solution provides the company with a complete view of water levels in eight water tanks and sends alarms notifying the facilities manager when water from the municipality has stopped. It also provides a complete view of water pump statuses and alerts when the pumps stop working.

“The use of technology, with other initiatives such as greater focus on the treatment and re-use of wastewater, can dramatically improve the threatened water security situation around the world. Our next focus is on solutions for agriculture, a major consumer of water globally. Our agriculture application is in the final stages of development, and we are aiming at testing and then launching it in the second quarter of the year,” Nkambule says.

Read more about Water Week 2021.