Artificial Intelligence and Water Conservation

Water Conservation: A Growing Need

Water conservation is the entirety of policies, programs and strategies designed to manage the world’s freshwater resource to avoid water scarcity and meet present and future water needs.

Despite 70% of the world being covered by water, there is a real threat of water scarcity. This is because only 1% of the total available water resources on earth is available for human use. The vast majority (97%) is salty water in oceans and seas while 2.5-2.75% is freshwater but nearly 2% of freshwater is frozen in glaciers and ice.

Inefficiency plagues the utilization of the 1% of water available for use as at least 30% - reaching as high as 70% in some regions - of freshwater supplies are wasted due to leakage. This gloomy picture is further worsened by the fact that 70% of industrial wastes and 90% of sewage is released untreated into the environment.

The inevitable effect of this is water scarcity which is estimated to affect 40% of the world’s population and is expected to become higher as the world’s population continues to grow. Almost 2 million people reside in river basins where water consumption is more than replenishment. 

Water conservation is essential for the following reasons:

i. It is energy-saving which in turn helps the planet

ii. It prevents, or at least delays, drought cycles 

iii. It reduces the incidence of political conflicts over water rights

Artificial Intelligence and Water Conservation 

Smart management systems can promote water conservation. Smart meters can be used to pinpoint leaks and pipeline damage in residential homes. The success of this application has been demonstrated in South Korea where leakage and expenditure have been reduced by 20% by smart meters. WINT Water Intelligence, based in the United States, uses AI to carry out live monitoring of water flow analysis to detect anomalies, waste, and leakage at its source.

IoT sensors can be used to collect data for analysis to determine water pressure, water quality, water level, flow rate, etc. This data can be used to better monitor water input and output and reduce the incidence of unaccounted-for-water loss. Software analytics systems like this are already being applied by South East Water, a government-owned company in Australia. Melbourne Water, through its Python platform, tackles the water conservation challenge via the automated regulation of pump movement determined by the quantity of water needed on a daily basis. This ensures that water is delivered as needed without any unauthorized consumption and that energy is efficiently utilized.

AI can upgrade the design of monitoring and control networks as digital twins i.e. virtual replications of physical distribution networks. The AI algorithms will have the capacity to analyze statistical relationships with more refined precision and accuracy. The virtual model’s simulations can be used to inform the real-world construction of the network. This introduces efficiency that promotes water conservation.


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