Developing low-cost water metering devices | Infrastructure news

WISA’s Innovation for Water Supply & Sanitation Division hosted a learning exchange and hackathon to address water management challenges through the design, construction and testing of low-cost smart devices that are compatible with existing water meters.

By Wendy Mey, lead: Innovations for Water Supply and Sanitation Division, WISA

South African cities and towns are increasingly pressured to become smarter. For urban areas challenged by water management issues, smart water metering can help to monitor consumption more effectively, reduce leaks, forecast demand and plan for future usage. The cost of implementing smart water metering is usually a one-time cost: once installed, the devices do not need much maintenance, possess a long battery life and are extremely durable.

eThekwini has an extensive water network with roughly of 500 000 installed water meters that are manually read monthly. There are roughly 3 000 zonal meters that represent large sections of the network and around 70 custody transfer meters that represent the full purchase of water for the system. Thus, the initial outlay to transition the eThekwini water network to a smart system based on commercially available smart water metering devices is exorbitant. Since the water network is expanding, the only way to reduce the implementation cost is to find a way to reduce the price of the smart water metering device.

Learning exchange and hackathon

WISA’s Innovation for Water Supply and Sanitation Division, in partnership with eThekwini Municipality, hosted a learning exchange and hackathon at the Durban Botanic Gardens Conference Centre. This event provided a platform to enhance participants’ competence on design thinking and also enabled stakeholders to share ideas on developing a low-cost device with real-time monitoring and data transmission capabilities that can be attached to existing bulk and consumer meters.

Various industry leaders shared experience and knowledge at the event and provided guidance to hackathon participants. Day 1 of the two-day workshop covered the empathy and synthesis phases of the design process. Day 2 of the event moved on to the ideation and prototyping phases of the design and thinking process.

Keep a lookout on the WISA website and communications for updates on the prototyping and implementation of the low-cost smart water metering device.

The prototyping and development of the device is powered by an EU-funded water operators’ partnership programme managed through UN Habitat’s Global Water Operators’ Partnership Alliance. One of these partnerships was recently established between eThekwini Water and Sanitation in Durban, Hamburg Wasser in Germany and additional partners.

The design of the device developed by the3 project will be available to other municipalities globally.

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