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Eliminate water waste (how Gwinnett County is doing it)

Submitted by scc partner on March 23, 2017

We tend to waste a lot of water. In some cities, up to a third of the water simply vanishes somewhere in the water distribution system. And we really can’t afford to waste a single drop.

In many communities, water is incredibly scarce. Making matters worse, when the water is lost within your distribution system, that lost water is water that you have already paid to treat.

Below, you’ll read about a new project involving three Council partners — Qualcomm, AT&T and CH2M — to help Gwinnett County, Georgia, reduce its already low level of water waste. Because of their teamwork, this solution is very easy to deploy, providing quick results.

And it’s not just about saving your city money. It’s also about better serving your citizens. This smart infrastructure can help you warn businesses and residents early if you suspect they may have a water leak. Isn’t that better than surprising them with a huge water bill? — Kevin Ebi

Qualcomm Intelligent Solutions, AT&T, CH2M and Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources in Georgia are collaborating to reduce the amount of drinking water lost on its way to customers. This will be one of the first projects using power-efficient modems from Qualcomm Technologies to monitor non-revenue water usage — or water that has been treated and “lost” through the conveyance system before it reaches the customer whether through leaks, theft or meter errors.

Gwinnett County operates at a low level of water loss, while across the nation, high levels of non-revenue water reflects a significant impact on the financial standing of water utilities leading to the waste of water and energy resources. In addition, identifying water leaks on a customer’s property can provide them with information needed to take corrective action resulting in lower monthly water bills, which is of great interest to Gwinnett County. 

This will be AT&T’s largest pilot of its type using new ultrasonic meters connected to AT&T’s LTE network. During the pilot study, meters will be installed and the data analyzed with the goal of identifying opportunities to reduce the cost of water delivery and distribution, improve management of water resources, improve system operations, and save money for customers.

The pilot study will use Qualcomm Technologies’ modems in solutions such as smart water meters to produce data to be used in the development of software algorithms. While this project is set for a pilot area, it can be expanded to the entire Gwinnett County water distribution system, helping to reduce water loss and deliver savings in energy and cost.

“Helping to intelligently connect water infrastructure is an example of how Qualcomm Technologies’ connectivity solutions supports the development of advanced applications and services for the Industrial IoT segment,” said Michael Wallace, senior vice president and general manager, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “According to the International Water Association, non-revenue water accounts for up to twenty-five percent of the water supply globally, and our teams have been working to develop solutions that can improve and extend the life of our water infrastructure leveraging LTE and 3G. Together with AT&T and CH2M, our goal is to bring world class solutions to help reduce water loss for a large water utility partner, Gwinnett County.”

“Gwinnett County has tracked the impact of non-revenue water for many years and is at the forefront of implementing new technology solutions to better manage their system,” said Ken Thompson, deputy director, CH2M Intelligent Water Solutions. “Using cellular technologies is an innovative approach to managing non-revenue water, which has traditionally been managed through pipeline leak detection programs. Demonstrating new technologies to get real-time data in Gwinnett County’s water distribution system will provide an innovative approach for utilities worldwide to significantly reduce water loss and achieve economic and environmental benefits.”

“A key component of our smart cities initiatives is to use Internet of Things solutions to help cities better manage their water operations by protecting their supply and preventing waste,” said Mike Zeto, general manager, AT&T Smart Cities. “We’re thrilled to be working with Qualcomm Intelligent Solutions and CH2M as we help Gwinnett County test this new technology that may be key to solving a critical need for the water industry.”

Gwinnett County’s water utility serves a population of nearly 900,000 people through over 3,700 miles of distribution pipe and 250,000 service connections. While Gwinnett County’s water losses are low by industry standards, tracking of water loss is vital to providing responsible stewardship of limited water resources.

“The data from this system will allow us to offer customers a never-before-seen look at their water consumption – helping them manage usage and identify home leaks or running toilets in real time. This can help the customer save money as well as conserve water,” said Rick Reagan, deputy director, business services, Gwinnett County. “The Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system will allow us to continue to provide superior water service at an excellent value. Leveraging the data from the smart water network, we can track water as it moves through the system. We will be able to use the information to help respond more quickly to system leaks that may occur. Eventually this data may be used to predict where and when system leaks will occur.”

Water sustainability is just one of the environmental challenges facing our cities. To explore this topic, city leaders and other stakeholders will take part in the two-day Global City Team Challenge (GCTC) SuperCluster event, March 22-23 in Atlanta. The event, co-hosted by NIST, City of Atlanta, AT&T, Smart Cities Council and Siemens, will explore how smart technologies can help cities tackle issues around energy, water and waste.

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