The Smart City needs Smart Water and Smart Grid

As cities grow, efficiency and sustainable growth will become more reliant on smart water and the smart grid.
Published: Mon 03 Mar 2014

Cities all over the world are employing smart city initiatives in response to the escalation in urbanization. This growth in urbanization has become the key driver for smart cities.

The “smart city” has become critical as governments and the power industry attempts to address the projected demands on a city’s resources. During this decade, cities worldwide are predicted to invest US$108 billion in smart city infrastructure such as smart meters and grids, energy-efficient buildings, and data analytics.

According to Jim Anderson, Vice President, Smart Cities, Schneider Electric and Mark Leinmiller, Water Wastewater Segment Manager, Schneider Electric, smarter energy consumption is one of the central components to achieving all of a smart city’s goals.

Companies in the energy industry are in a unique position to offer more complete solutions for the smart cities market. For a while, these firms have been incorporating digital and analytics tools into solutions like the smart grid and smart buildings.

Coupled with an expertise in infrastructure management, energy companies offer a “bottom-up” approach to allow cities to improve their critical systems and infrastructure at a fundamental level as well as integrate their systems through advanced technology. Cities can then apply advanced monitoring and analytics in order to continuously measure and enhance performance.

Smart Water is just as important as the Smart Grid

While the smart grid is viewed as the backbone of a smart and energy efficient city, water systems are an equally essential part of the smart city’s critical infrastructure, say Mr Anderson and Mr Leinmiller.

Water utilities are often the largest energy consumer in a city, representing as much as half of the city’s energy consumption. Added to this, a city’s growing population is only going to increase water consumption.

The term Smart Water points to a water and wastewater infrastructure that ensures water – and the energy used to transport it – are managed effectively and efficiently. A Smart Water system gives a city a sound and viable strategy for sustainable growth.

The water utility also facilitates the sharing of actionable data to create efficiency. For instance, in an extreme weather event, the watershed management team can automatically share stormwater modelling information, which points to potential flooding zones and times based on predictive precipitation data.

Armed with this information, the transportation department can then re-route traffic accordingly and alert the population using mass notification. Hospitals, emergency response teams and the like, would be able to respond to these disasters more effectively as they will have some time to prepare themselves. This would of course ensure the general safety of the city’s residents.

Smart Water and critical infrastructures as a whole should be viewed as the cornerstone of any smart city strategy. Modernizing and then integrating a city’s infrastructure to work together is a challenge, but quickly demonstrates its value as part of a smart growth plan.

Emerging best practices such as a “bottom-up” approach are helping municipal and global leaders build cities on the principles of efficiency, liveability, and sustainability. This will ensure that the cities of the future rae as smart as promised.