Quantitative added value of digital water meters and other sensors at customer locations

What are the benefits for the distribution process of different versions of smart water meters and the additional sensors? In this project, quantitative descriptions and model studies will help to answer this question so that drinking water companies can make a broader assessment of whether or not to use a particular version of this technology.

Need to quantify the added value of digital water meters

Most drinking water companies in the BTO joint research programme are looking at the use of digital water meters at business locations and in customers’ homes. This involves developing individual business cases and conducting pilot projects. Furthermore, there is also interest in “complementary hardware” such as remotely controlled valves or sensors that measure more than volume flow alone.

However, considerable doubts remain about the technical implementation requirements for a sensor network of digital water meters. There are questions about the type of sensors, the number of meters in a given area, the log and transmission frequency, and the integration of digital water meters in the broader digital infrastructure of the drinking water companies.

The industry has been thinking about the added value of digital water meters for some time. For example, in the DPWE study in 2017, a broad, qualitative overview was established of different versions of digital water meters and additional sensors. That study also examined the benefits for the customer and billing process, mains operation, the customer, society and research on drinking water mains.

In addition, model studies of the quantitative added value of potential additional functionalities were conducted in 2019 in the context of the DPWE study. The focus here was on the use of pressure sensors with a limited measurement frequency for leak detection and for detecting anomalies in valves in the mains.

In addition to the specific findings relating to leak detection, model studies turned out to be well suited to a broad but objective exploration of the added value of different options. This will certainly continue to be the case as long as pilot projects still produce limited data, and as long as they are still a long way from including all the different versions. This earlier DPWE study therefore recommended the development and implementation of model studies for other possible functionalities of digital water meters/sensors at customer locations. This project will implement that recommendation.

Mapping existing knowledge and supplementing it with model studies

In this study, we will focus on the ongoing quantitative description of the various benefits of digital water meters and additional sensors for the distribution process.

The first step will be to prepare an overview of the added value of different versions of digital water meters and additional sensors as identified by Dutch and international studies and pilot projects. These quantitative insights have been described in piecemeal fashion until now and we will bring them together in this project.

We will then identify key knowledge gaps in consultation with the drinking water companies. Finally, we will conduct two model studies to remedy these ‘blind spots’. With this approach, we will improve our overview of the – quantitatively described – added value of digital water meters.

Quantitative description of the potential of digital water meters

The knowledge overview resulting from this project will provide drinking water companies with a clear picture of what to expect from particular versions of digital water meters and additional sensors. This will help them to make a broader assessment of whether or not to opt for a particular version.

The transfer of the initial overview and the prioritisation of key knowledge gaps will be organised through a workshop where the drinking water companies will be widely represented. The principal knowledge gaps will be remedied by two model studies. The project results will be presented to the international scientific community and reviewed through a contribution at a scientific conference.