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Coming soon: smart water grids

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Smart grid technologies are just years away from being installed throughout municipal water systems to reduce waste, detect contaminants, and raise awareness about how much of this resource so precious to life is being flushed away.

Veolia is investing in the incubation of smart water grid technologies to help local communities deal with stressed water systems.

Smart grid technologies are just years away from being installed throughout municipal water systems to reduce waste, detect contaminants, and raise awareness about how much of this resource so precious to life is being flushed away.

On Tuesday, I spoke with Bill Wescott, who is vice president of innovation at Veolia Environmental Services. Wescott said that Veolia, which has a sizeable water service business, is evaluating smart grid technologies that will make the distribution and collection of water more efficient.

Thousands of sensors would inform municipal water authorities about events such as leaks or transmit data about storm water overflows. It will also provide households with information about their water usage or possible health threats.

Technology that was developed for the power grid will make the transmission and processing of this data possible. New solutions are being developed to retrofit older water systems, which will monitor things like vibrations or electrical conductivity.

Veolia is "actively hunting and developing" technologies that run the gamut from sensors to action, Wescott said. The company is already involved with a pilot project in Europe, where smart water technologies are already being adopted.

Orange, the European cellular carrier, has partnered with Veolia Water to build a wireless network to transmit municipal water data. It is also participating in opportunities that are being created in the United States by local governments such as Milwaukee as well as the Federal government via the EPA.

Smart water technologies will most likely be deployed in areas of scarcity such as Australian, China, India, and even some parts of the south western United States, Wescott said.

"People will have to be more aware of their water use. It's a local issue."

(Image Credit: Veolia)

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure