Smart water technology puts urban developments at the frontline of efficiency

Posted 2 June 2017

Water-sensitive urban developmentsRapid urban growth and subsequent strains on water resources could be mitigated by integrated smart water technology systems, says one industry expert. 

Victoria is one state set to see its population almost double to 10 million people by 2051. Melbourne will host the majority of this boom, with the city’s population nearly doubling to 8 million. 
 
With this growth comes a strain on resources, said South East Water Research and Development Manager Dr David Bergmann.
 
“Looking at some of the modelling, predictions say that by 2050 there could be a 10-15% gap between supply and demand for drinking water,” he said.
 
There are several factors that play into this, Bergmann added, such as climate change, population growth and water use habits. However, trends like this show the need for more integrated water systems that squeeze every drop from available supplies.
 
The water industry is constantly innovating to meet these future challenges, and one example is South East Water’s Aquarevo development. Bergmann will be presenting a case study on the development at the upcoming Smart Water Networks Seminar in Melbourne.
 
Aquarevo uses water from three sources for distinct purposes: drinking water; Class A recycled water, which comes from the estate’s own water recycling plant and is used for toilets, washing machines and gardening; and rainwater, which is treated to supply each home with hot water for showering and bathing.
 
“We want drinking water to be used for drinking only as much as possible,” Bergmann said.
 
“Using recycled water will substitute 30-40% of the total water usage that would have been drinking water, and the rainwater will substitute up to an additional 30% of demand; that’s almost 70% substitution for drinking water with other types of water, which have all been sourced locally.”
 
South East Water is using smart water technology to accomplish this.
 
“Everything is integrated through a monitoring and control device called OneBox, which is attached to each house,” Bergmann said.
 
The device monitors the use of each type of water, and feeds usage data back to a central SCADA system.
 
“The OneBox monitors and measures everything and generates plenty of data, so we’ve developed methods to analyse that data and how to treat it,” he said.
 
“We are using this experience to build our confidence with managing this type of data, and to continuously improve the algorithms that control the system.
 
“We’ve been fortunate that we have been able to consult with other organisations about best practice, but also that we can leverage our own technology that we have developed and combine it into one project.”
 
Another key component of the success of the Aquarevo development is strong customer engagement and education. There is an on-site Discovery Centre, where potential residents can learn more about the OneBox system and the three sources of water that will supply their needs.
 
There will be ongoing communication between the utility and households as well. This includes the use of apps, where residents can monitor their water usage from each of the three sources, receive alerts when they are using more than usual and tips on how to save water. Eventually, gas and electricity will be integrated into the app, said Bergmann.
 
The first group of residents will move in starting in mid-to late 2018. In total 460-470 houses will be built in the estate.
 
With time, Bergmann said he hopes this development can serve as a demonstration project for smart water technology and water sensitive urban design.
 
“I think that this is scalable, and that’s something we are demonstrating with Aquarevo,” he said.
 
“We’ve kicked off an extensive monitoring research project that will continue to gather data from residents’ water use. Aquarevo is one of Australia’s most water efficient large-scale housing developments, and through this project we expect to set a standard in water efficiency that can be built upon for years to come.”