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Summing up savings with early leak detection

It’s National Water Week and, while schools around Australia facilitate programs to involve students in more effective understanding and use of water resources, one leading water technology company is showcasing the benefits of transparent water data for both savings and education.

Formed in 2003, Smart Utility Management Solutions (SUMS) Group has been working towards creating data transparency for almost two decades, but the journey started in schools, Managing Director Paul Marsh said.

“We commenced the monitoring of water utilities in 2006. Initially, we wanted to investigate and substantiate the savings that could be made through early leak detection,” he said.

“Together with our software partner, we developed a portal. We found our first marketplace with Sydney Water, who were interested in conducting some early leak detection work with the school community in the Sydney basin."

“We’ve now rolled out our technology to over 400+ schools across New South Wales and Queensland.”

Marsh said the business drivers for the school-based initiative are two-fold, including effective water savings via leak detection and providing access to water-use insights to help educators devise water savings lesson plans for students.

“The early notification of issues surrounding leaks within a school environment is important because, if dealt with promptly, it can significantly reduce utility costs for schools,” he said.

“The second benefit is around water savings education. The portal that SUMS developed was specifically designed to be simple and intuitive to use for anybody, be it a facility manager or a child in a science class.

“Many of the schools log into the portal to view their water use and devise lessons for school children to see the effects of water consumption and behaviour at the school.

“It's really exciting to engage both the school community and the children, who are obviously the next generation of consumers, and also the asset management side of it in terms of maintaining effective use of water within the schools.”

SUMS have also recently engaged with the University of Wollongong (UOW) to provide a water monitoring solution, helping the institution create useful reports, understand usage patterns, spot anomalies and garner opportunities for extensive water savings.

“The University of Wollongong went to tender because, while they were monitoring their water use at that stage, the system they had in place was 2G and had recently been decommissioned,” Marsh said.

“The other challenge they had was geographical, the campus sits under the Illawarra escarpment, which is notorious for creating digital connection issues.”

SUMS aimed to provide UOW with a reliable and accurate system, but one that would also continue to work within the difficult geological environment.

“We started monitoring all of the water meters, including the main boundary meters and the sub-meters, which serve the various campus buildings, plus a similar number of gas meters for all major buildings,” Marsh said.

SUMS platform has the capability to integrate data from both gas and water use, enabling the UOW to make the most of one platform for management of both energy and water usage.

“The facilities' management team were keen to achieve a 15-minute interval view of water and gas usage throughout the campus in order to be quick off the mark in terms of leak response,” Marsh said.

Following the installation of dozens of data loggers across two campuses, the University of Wollongong have made savings of approximately $64,000 per year from proactive water analytics.

“The university is continuing to add to its portfolio of loggers as they build more facilities. It wasn't just a one-off thing, they're continuing that water saving journey, which is great to see,” Marsh said.

Aside from servicing education facilities, SUMS have established strong connections with other business segments, too, including residential strata, hospitals and other water-intensive sectors.

“Our largest segment outside of the education sector is the industrial and commercial area, where some of the major water users are airports, abattoirs, hospitals and local government. These types of facilities use a lot of water as an input to their business and require insight into water data to ensure effective use,” Marsh said.

“The SUMS portal plays a big part in helping industry manage their water usage. It's quite unique to have an Australian company develop data logging products, as well as software for the Australian market.

“We continue to develop and invest in our hardware platforms as well as our own software platform, which continue to provide business insights for all types of organisations.”

Marsh said all the data collected is available to customers, but the technology company is now working within the business intelligence space in order to offer more insight to its customers. “We’ve decided to assess the insights we can provide by using business intelligence platforms,” Marsh said.

“This approach allows us to look at trend patterns, analyse the data and represent it to our customers so that they can get even deeper insights into the behaviour of their buildings.”