“Today, we are entering the era of Cities 3.0. In this era, the city is a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology. It’s paperless, wireless and cashless. In 3.0 cities, we have more cell phones than landlines, more tablets than desktops, more smart devices than toothbrushes. This truly represents a new era of the American city.”
– Kevin Johnson, Former Mayor of Sacramento, CAToday, we are entering the era of Cities 3.0 says @KJ_MayorJohnson on #SmartCities Click To Tweet
Simply put, smart water is the foundation for a smarter city. As urbanization increases as populations in urban centers rise, solving the global water crisis will become a top priority – especially as there is an increased desire to integrate smart solutions within cities.
In 2014, 54% of the global population resided in urban dwellings, and a 2% growth was projected per year until 2020. While the global population is growing, the value of smart cities is growing as well, with estimates placing the value of the smart city market at $1.565 trillion by 2020.
Frost & Sullivan, a business consulting firm, defines a smart city as having adopted at least 5 of the 8 smart parameters – smart governance, smart energy, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart healthcare, and smart citizens. In order to be a smart city, every aspect of the daily lives of inhabitants must integrate digital solutions that substantially and drastically alter life in a way that improves efficiency, streamlines adoption of innovation, and integrates disruptive technologies, thus making technology transparent, accessible and a way of life for city inhabitants.
Smart water isn’t just a gimmick, but rather an essential foundation of the smart infrastructure that is necessary in order to build a smart city. Water is a life source and preserving it is critical by all accounts. As populations grow, so too will the demand for water and the consumption of water. From the moment fresh water is captured and until it flows through underground pipes to a persons home or office, there is a long journey which needs to be streamlined, automated, digitized and improved in order to reduce waste and improve quality of water and quality of life – and that is what smart water is all about.
Today, roughly 20% of processed water is lost because the treatment plants and distribution systems are antiquated and unable to sustain the current population. Worldwide, 700 million people in 43 countries are currently experiencing water scarcity, and by 2025 that number is expected to escalate dramatically, nearing 1.8 billion people.
Why it Matters
Beyond ensuring sustainable life, deteriorating water infrastructure has long lasting impacts on the economic condition of communities. In the U.S alone, it is estimated that poor water infrastructure will cost American businesses over $734 billion by 2020, and will impact over 700,000 jobs – a number the integration of smart water solution is expected to change.
Water infrastructure costs reach a staggering 50% of a city’s total energy spending, and the increased populations and costs of energy will bring many cities to bankruptcy simply by providing inhabitants with water. Considering the fact that a medium city requires 100 gallons of water per day, and 20-25% of the water is lost, that reaches over $13 million in non-recoverable losses and expenses for a city.
In order for a city to be smart, creating a strong and sustainable infrastructure for the collection, storage, and distribution of water is critical for the overall growth of the city.
Integrating Smart Water Solutions
As the importance of smart water solutions continues to rise, countries are beginning to recognize the importance of improving infrastructures and conserving water.
Denmark is one of the countries actively seeking to adopt smart water solutions, and over 12.1 million DKK have been given in order to run proof-of-concepts (PoC’s) that test smart solutions for city planning, specifically to manage the heavy rains in the area and the impact they have on the rest of the city’s infrastructure. The city of Cape Town (which we highlighted in a past post as being a place to watch for innovation) was internationally recognized for their efforts in integrating smart water solutions – the result of which have been a 30% reduction in water use over 15 years, during which the population increased by 30%, showcasing their ability to withstand population growth over time.
As more cities get on board the ‘smart city’ train, the need for innovations in the way water is managed will rise, opening a space for startups that are able to prove their impact on water quality, the ability to improve wastewater, the ability to reduce water contamination and more.