Water and Electric: Not Such a Dangerous Combination After All

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – October 22, 2013 – Comment

As long as there’s been electricity, there’s been the fairly obvious safety warning: water and electric simply do not mix. However, as climate change, regional precipitation patterns and destructive ‘outbreaks’ from Mother Nature have society increasingly focused on water service interruption – one critical exception to this age-old rule is becoming more and more apparent. When it comes to conservation, our water resources have a great deal to gain by being introduced to the technology applied to electricity.

For decades, the smart grid has been in place to improve efficiency, reliability, economics and sustainability in the production and distribution of electricity through an automated process. Most people, businesses and industry interact with this process every day. Electricity consumption patterns are studied to define peak and off-peak times. Technologies exist to measure how much power a given household, room or device uses. Utility companies offer customers programs that can restrict usage on high-energy devices. Manufacturers are developing appliances that can ‘shut down’ functions that utilize higher amounts of electricity during peak (higher price) times.

So the questions need to be asked.

  • Why hasn’t similar technology for intelligent electricity conservation been applied to water?
  • Can a water smart grid be established so information on water supply and consumption patterns can be more efficiently and accurately gathered, communicate and ACTED upon?

The answers to ‘why not’ may never be fully exhausted. However, one key reason is that only recently have communities, corporations and individuals considered the very real responsibility we all have to conserve water, and started to act accordingly. Another is that investors haven’t put a great enough value on water to get behind water smart grid technology.

Fortunately, these dynamics are changing, and companies in the water industry have not only determined that YES, a water smart grid is possible, but we are moving forward in harnessing existing intelligence and technology to make it happen. Our Certified Partner Innovation Program, and particularly a partnership with ENBALA Power Networks, is a powerful platform in which we are working to “learn” from the electric smart grid, develop and test water-specific solutions in order to move our customers toward intelligent water consumption, cost savings… and peace of mind.

Like electricity, water is critical (certainly more so, but try living with a teen when there is no power for computers or Wii!) to existence and it has existed since the beginning of time. Yet, it is only recently water’s value and conservation have been given the same consideration. However, thanks to the smart grid, the wheel has already been invented, and now the water industry is poised to take water intelligence and conservation up to – or beyond – that of other utilities.