Smart Water Metering presents huge benefits for consumers, industry and the environment
By 2050, it is projected that the UK water sector will face significant water shortages due to population growth and the impacts of climate change. Under this scenario, an additional 4 billion litres per day could be needed to ensure the UK's water resilience.
One of the challenges is reducing leakage and water wastage more generally. Daily, the equivalent of about 1,245 Olympic swimming pools worth of water (over 3 billion litres) is lost to leakages in England and Wales. The UK water sector is working towards ensuring plentiful water supplies for the future, having set targets to greatly reduce water use and wastage.
Targeting leaks and supporting people to reduce their water consumption would have significant, wide-ranging benefits; ensuring more water stays in the environment, reducing the carbon associated with supplying and using water, as well as driving down the costs of supplying water.
Advanced smart water metering insights
Accurate, regular data on water use is key to making a positive change to water consumption. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) smart meters provide hourly data points on water consumption in households over a 15-year working life. This provides more detailed insight than traditional water meters, which may be read every six months, or other metering technology that provides data far less frequently (e.g. weekly).
The data provided by AMI smart water meters enables:
- Remote, automated network monitoring and fast detection of leaks;
- Insight into water consumption, supporting future planning for water supplies in addition to identification and encouragement of household behaviours that help save water; and
- Greater consumer engagement with water use.
All helping reduce water use and wastage.
We have already seen positive impacts being demonstrated. In April 2021, Thames Water celebrated the installation of half a million smart meters, which helped detect over 28,000 leaks and saved up to 43 million litres of water per day. In their December 2021 report on Smarter ways out of water poverty,' Thames Water found that customers consuming more than 500 litres per day could benefit from a bill reduction of between 8-17%, equivalent to a saving of between 40 and 166 per year.
Research from Waterwise found encouraging signs that people are receptive to smart water metering. A survey of UK residents found that 87% of people said they would investigate getting a smart water meter if it would lead to a reduction in their bills and was fitted at no charge. Importantly, the research highlights that those with a smart meter installed are more likely to be aware of the water scarcity challenges in the UK, their own water use, and are much more likely to act to try to save water.
Accelerating the rollout
An accelerated rollout of smart water meters across the UK would help realise significant benefits.
Of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions, about 6% is linked to domestic water supply. The majority of this (90%) comes from household use, including heating water, washing machine and dishwasher use. Research compiled from Waterwise and Arqiva estimated that installing one million smart water meters in the UK each year for 15 years would, by the mid-2030s, save at least one billion litres of water a day. This reduction in water use could reduce the UK's total annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 0.5%.
Parallel research from Frontier Economics and Artesia has shown that a coordinated rollout of smart water metering by companies across England and Wales would deliver 4.4 billion in benefits to society against costs of 2.5 billion; a net benefit of 1.9 billion. There was found to be a positive benefit-to-cost ratio for smart water metering across every region of England. The costs associated with smart water metering are offset by savings on leakage control and network management, the reduced costs from producing less water, and by avoiding the need to obtain other water resources to supplement supplies.
This research indicates a positive business case even if smart meters are not used for consumer billing.
Figure: Tracking the individual costs and benefits of a smart water meter rollout
Source: Frontier Economics & Artesia, November 2021, Cost benefit analysis, assessing the social and environmental case for a smart water meter rollout'.
Reducing water consumption is essential to address future water scarcity. Advanced smart water metering has a key role to play, providing the data and insight needed to make a positive change.
To realise the benefits of smart water metering, governments, regulators, and the Environment Agency must collaborate and support investment in the technology with a view to long-term benefits. The drawing up of business plans by water companies this year, which have a five-year horizon and are assessed by the water regulator Ofwat, provide an opportunity to accelerate the rollout of smart water metering.
Over the coming years, the increased use of smart meters will help industry and consumers take the steps needed to ensure plentiful supplies of water into the future.
Laura Hedges - Arqiva
Arqiva is a company at the heart of both the broadcast and utilities sectors in the UK - and is the UK's only large-scale provider of smart water metering infrastructure, with over a million Advanced Metering Infrastructure' (AMI) smart meters installed across our customers. Smart water meters play a vital role in delivering insights to reduce water wastage, improve water efficiency, and help empower consumers to reduce their own water use.
Learn more about Arqiva on their website
Committed to Climate Action - related resources:
- Event: techUK Tech and Net Zero Conference' launched - free to members | 30 June
- News: The Energy Security Strategy - good for digital technology?
- Guest blog (TIER Mobility): Technology can decarbonise the transport sector with the right framework
- Guest blog (Stuart): Decarbonising the last mile': a shared endeavour
- Guest blog (Voi Technology): Shared e-scooters and the role of multimodality in the run to net zero
- Guest blog (Uber): How Uber is supporting the transition to Electric Vehicles