GB water company Northumbrian Water has been awarded £875,000 (US$1.1 million) to lead the development of a hydro powered concentric smart water meter.
A challenge for the cost effectiveness of water as well as gas smart meters is the need for a battery to power the communications, placing potential restrictions on the level and frequency of data transmission and the need for its replacement within the lifetime of the meter.
But that may be about to change with the development of a meter powered by the mains water pressure through a turbine in a project conceived by Northumbrian Water back in 2021 and now awarded funding from Britain’s water regulator Ofwat’s innovation ‘Water Breakthrough Challenge’ fund.
Climate change is driving the need to conserve water as a key resource. Using the flow of water to provide limitless power to the meter would enable live, rich data to be provided to the consumer and to utilities, enabling actions to reduce consumption and to more rapidly identify and respond to leaks, states Northumbrian Water.
In addition to saving water, further sustainability benefits will arise from longer meter lifespans, reduced maintenance and the elimination of environmentally harmful batteries.
“This funding provides a fantastic opportunity to develop a prototype of the world’s first concentric hydro powered smart meter, enabling the use of granular data to reduce customer consumption and removing the need for environmentally damaging batteries,” says Gary Adams, head of Smart Programme at Northumbrian Water.
Other partners in the project include SUEZ Advanced Solutions UK and the French smart water solution startup Hydrao – Smart and Blue as well as the other water companies Southern Water, South East Water, Anglian Water and Portsmouth Water.
The hydro-powered smart meter will be designed to fit in customers’ existing meter chambers.
Open water data
The hydro powered smart meter is one of four projects for which Northumbrian Water received funding in this round.
The largest amount – almost £4 million ($5 million) – was awarded to the next phase of the Stream project, which is developing an open data sharing platform for the water companies to share data with one another, other utilities companies and the wider public in a secure, standardised and easy to access way.
The Stream platform, due to be delivered in 2024, is involving ten other water companies alongside Northumbrian Water as well as other partners with experience from banking and energy.
The challenges and solutions don’t stop at water company boundaries, Northumbrian Water points out. Being able to collaborate around data is a key ingredient to drive innovation and improve sector performance.
Ofwat has stated its expectation that in the next price review period from 2024 on companies should be making better use of data, including by embracing open data.