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Using digital technologies to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Provide a case study on how digital technology is used to achieve SDG 6.
boy drinking water out of outdoor tap
© RMIT 2023

SDG 6 aims to ensure clean drinking water and sanitation for all, focusing on the sustainable management of water resources, wastewater and ecosystems.

Information and communication technology (ICT) in water management can play an important role in ensuring and monitoring water quality, water use and water infrastructure.

What is smart water management?

The use of ICT in water management is often referred to as smart water management (SWM). In SWM, ICT provides real-time, automated data for better management of water resources (SWMCSR, 2018). SWM has a range of applications including for example: water quality, water quantity, efficient irrigation, leak detection, pressure and flow, floods and droughts. Smart water meters are an integral part of SWM. Sensors are used extensively in SWM infrastructure to gather data about their environment and input that data to an application. The data gathered could trigger an output response. Geographical Information Systems (GIS), satellite mapping and data sharing applications can also form part of the SWM infrastructure to provide real-time solutions such as managing leaks in pipes. The purpose of SWM is to increase efficiency and security and reduce risk in water management.

Benefits of SWM

To give you some insights on SWM and the use of smart meters and sensors we provide details of two projects in Korea. The Republic of Korea has been a leader in SWM since 2008. Its track record developed from a strategy to be more efficient in water management and improve the reliability of water management systems. Drinking water in Korea is regarded as high quality but only 5% of people drink it, this is much lower than the United States (56%) and Japan (52%). Koreans do not trust tap water quality due to concerns about the age of the water pipes, the smell of tap water and its taste. To address these concerns K-water introduced the Smart Water City (SWC) project with the goal to improve the direct tap water drinking rate. In Paju Smart City, ICT including real-time sensors and on the ground staff engagement increased the tap water drinking rate substantially from 1% to 36.3% in three years.

In Korea, K-water installed smart metering in Seosan City. The aim was to reduce water leakages and improve revenue by using remote metering. Unlike a human read meter, which relies on a person to manually check the data on a meter on site, these smart meters provide a user’s hourly water usage via a digital meter (smart meter) and wireless communication technology (ICT). The project results show 20% improvement in the revenue to water use ratio and 190,000 m3 of water saved in leakages per year. The benefits are estimated at USD $590,000 over the next 8 years. Switching to remote meters has lowered water use, improved water quality, and customer satisfaction has been improved as it has been possible to handle complaints related to water quality, water usage and water leaks promptly.

Lessons learned for organisations to improve water management and water waste

  • Smart water management relies on ICT with smart meters and sensors that gather data and will become more important in the future. Smart water meters can be used by organisations to better manage leaks in pipes and inform their water use decisions.
  • Greater use of data and information on water use can be made by organisations to inform employees and discuss changes in consumption habits. Organisations can use data on water use and wasted water to develop SWM plans and policies.
  • Best practice in SWM provides public and private organisations with potential ideas to adopt themselves. Organisations can allocate roles for SWM and those roles can be responsible for adopting best practice in the area.
  • This trend of SWM is only at the beginning and will run for many years so organisations should take a long-term perspective. Organisations that start early on the SMW path are likely to manage water better in the long run.
© RMIT 2023
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