Just how much attention does the world's aging water infrastructure need? Enough for market analysis firm Lux Research to suggest technologies to monitor, repair and improve that infrastructure represent a market approaching $20 billion. What's more, sales of information technology to address our water challenges continue to grow about 10 percent year-over-year.
Lux's report, called "Plugging the Leaks: The Business of Water Infrastructure Repair," points to three areas of particular interest for municipalities or (for that matter) companies that are trying to get a better handle on their water consumption habits.
- Technologies that help find and address cracks, holes and other weaknesses in pipes
- Smart infrastructure monitoring, especially technologies that combine geographic information systems and/or global positioning satellite data with pipe infrastructure information
- Smart meters that give cities and citizens (corporate AND private) a better picture of consumption
Speaking of meters, I spoke a few weeks back with a company called WaterWatch, and what makes this company interesting to me is their focus on submetering of water usage. Simply put, their idea is that multitenant dwellings have for too long treated water as "free," and that facilities and real estate managers need to get smarter about the actual usage of different tenants.
For example, why would a strip mall charge a restaurant -- which is like to use a lot more water than a retail store -- the same water fees. Some states, notably Georgia, are beginning to require submetering in multifamily dwellings. WaterWatch President Todd Quartmain says more new construction is accommodating submeters, which cost between $100 and $150 to install. (Retrofits might costs more like $200 per apartment, he estimates.)
"In the long run, it encourages conservation across the board," he says.
This is the third time since the beginning of the year that someone has mentioned utility submetering as a trend -- which says to me that it's something we all need to watch, especially since we are realizing that water really isn't "free" after all.