Increasingly severe droughts, aging infrastructure, and the demands of a growing population on a limited water supply are the major stressors impacting most water utilities today. How do utilities successfully meet growing demand, with a finite – or even dwindling – supply? Now, more than ever, utilities are under tremendous pressure to account for every drop of water delivered.

As a result, water accountability has emerged as the most crucial issue of our time, and this has thrust non-revenue water into the spotlight. Non-revenue water (NRW) is water that has been produced by a utility, but not billed. This “lost” water can be a real, or physical, loss (through leaks, for example) or an apparent loss (through theft or metering inaccuracies). While unheard of outside the water industry, NRW is an issue that impacts everyone: The International Energy Agency has estimated that 34% of all water produced worldwide becomes non-revenue water – an alarming statistic in the face of worldwide drought and scarcity. In response, breakthrough technology is now revealing new insights into the true nature of water loss, and a solution to address it.

Necessity is the Mother of Innovation

As the industry sharpens its focus on water loss, utilities are increasingly turning to new and innovative solutions to ensure every drop is accounted for. Breakthrough AI-based edge technology is giving utilities never-before-seen insights into water management and distribution, enabling real-time water loss control. Using this technology, utilities now have more effective ways to gauge meter performance than flow testing – without wasting a drop of water. This same technology is fast-tracking digitalization of the water industry, bringing myriad benefits to utilities, their customers, and the environment.

Real-time Water Loss Control

Using this breakthrough AI technology, Olea Edge Analytics is on a mission to eliminate all water loss. How? Olea’s solution shines a new light on where water is going, starting with the biggest water users and extending through to the digitalization of the water distribution system. Through active, continuous performance monitoring of the entire distribution system, Olea identifies and diagnoses all sources of non-revenue water – both real and apparent loss – in real time, so utilities always know where every drop is going.

Olea is the first company to deploy AI and machine learning at the edge, even in unpowered environments, to actively monitor and diagnose the health of cities’ highest-value water assets – helping utilities across the US dramatically reduce water loss, recover revenue, and account for every drop delivered. Olea’s solution continually monitors the health and performance of the water distribution system in real time, using data analytics to identify and diagnose issues. Olea’s solution can monitor any type of high-value commercial meter, as well as meter vaults, and even the entire water distribution network for leaks, pressure, and other performance issues. Using Olea’s technology, utilities know immediately when there is an issue, and how to fix it – ensuring every drop is accounted for.

Moving Beyond Traditional Flow Testing

In response to the increasing pressure to reduce water loss and to demonstrate water accountability, many utilities are turning to industry practices such as flow testing or continual, phased meter replacements to maintain their meter fleet. These practices are expensive, inefficient, and marginally successful – but until now, they have been the only options. Utilities could forego traditional flow testing and phased replacements if they had real-time insights into actual meter health. Olea’s solution delivers a more accurate, holistic view of large meters under normal operating conditions, without wasting a drop of water. And, by diagnosing meter health, Olea’s solution enables utilities to repair or replace only those meters that actually need it.

Fast-tracking Digitalization

Olea’s Water Accountability Solution leverages active, real-time digitalization of the water distribution system to find all NRW. By deploying Olea’s technology, utilities now have an interactive digital twin of their water distribution network. Through Olea’s Water Management Portal, utilities can see at a glance asset location, type & health; as well as where water is going, where problems exist, and exactly what those problems are. Equipped with these insights, utilities can quickly determine where to prioritize repairs – and can then do so in a single truck roll, improving operational efficiency. Afterward, they can consult the Portal to confirm repairs have been made correctly. In addition, utility customers can access Olea’s Customer Water Portal to monitor their own water use and to set alerts for unusual use patterns. This improves transparency and prevents billing disputes, while fostering customer trust in the utility and improving customer water accountability.

Water Accountability & Revenue Recovery

Many utilities are actively working to address NRW as quickly as possible. Many more have no idea how large their actual NRW numbers are – because until now, this technology, and the insights it provides, did not exist. Utilities pioneering Olea’s solution are often surprised to discover just how much water their state-of-the-art system is actually losing and why; however, this is quickly followed by excitement about the impact they can make by addressing it, including the revenue they can recover. For many utilities, revenue recovery is almost as important as water loss reduction, especially if the recovered revenue can fund digitalization and other infrastructure projects. Based on repair speed, utilities can recover revenue and see ROI within months of deployment.

Customer Results Reveal Surprising Data about Water Loss

Several US utilities have pioneered Olea’s solution, with intriguing results. One Top 10 US utility discovered 53% of the meters in their Olea program were underperforming, and by repairing just 10 of those meters, the utility reduced water loss by over 34M gallons and recovered over $1M in annualized revenue. In a 700-meter deployment, 86% of meters were revealed to be underperforming, and by making select repairs, the utility reduced water loss by 353M gallons and recovered over $10M in annualized revenue, in the first year alone. All deployments have taken place in utilities serving large US cities and major metropolitan areas. This data makes it clear that the true state of water loss in the US is bigger than most utilities realize. The data also provides a compelling business case for addressing it.

Conclusion

Water loss is a real concern in the US, but it also presents a clear opportunity for utilities. By using innovative technology to improve water accountability, utilities can now better manage a limited water supply. In addition to reducing NRW and water loss, utilities using Olea’s solution achieve operational efficiencies, generate economic returns, and build trust with customers and the community. Most importantly, by accounting for every drop, they can successfully sustain growth — even through severe drought – with aging infrastructure and a limited water supply.


Olea Edge Analytics is a Gold Partner at the World Water Tech North America Summit. Join Olea Edge Analytics’ VP of Government Relations, Quinn Jackson-Elliott plenary session, ‘Technology to Close the Knowledge Gap in the Workplace,’ on September 29 and their exclusive roundtable session, ‘How Digitalization Enables Real-Time Water Loss Control’ hosted by Andrew Kodis, EVP of Business Development on September 28 at World Water Tech North America in Los Angeles. See the full programme here.