Climate and a fast growing population are putting pressure on water supplies but authorities and new technology are planning for the challenges. By 2056, for instance, Sydney will be using more recycled water and harnessing stormwater to meet demands at least 50 per cent greater than present.
The latest technology is putting water data into the hands of building managers so that they can easily spot leaks and drive more efficient usage patterns.
Water data can now be fed back to building management system and integrated with other data, and made accessible from a smartphone.
This presents a big opportunity to keep hot water usage down – and therefore use less energy – by tweaking water temperatures in fixtures to reflect seasons and daily temperatures.
According to Dr Stephen Cummings, innovation director for Caroma, smart technology has already transformed monitoring and management of power, lighting and ventilation, but “similar opportunities in commercial water management have yet to be unlocked.”
“That is, until now.”
Caroma has recently created a smart bathroom system that is geared towards commercial bathrooms. Each product is “intelligent”, he said, including the toilets, tap ware and urinals.
Although aspects of the water system, such as meters, have already been made “smart” until now bathroom products have been unable to communicate as a holistic system. This has made it difficult to identify the location of leaks, among other drawbacks.
According to the recent The Bathroom of the Future report from the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, smarter bathroom technology is the next frontier in water conservation.
The researchers found that traditional hardware upgrades have “limited further potential” for water conservation, and that data-driven water management will open up new possibilities for reducing water use.
As well as reducing water use at an individual building level, data tools will also allow for better planning outcomes at precinct and wider city scale.
Sydney needs to innovate to meet water needs
Dr Cummings said that technological innovation is key to meeting the increasing demand on our water supplies.
“By 2050, our water demands will have increased by 55 per cent. Yet as inhabitants of one of the driest continents on earth, we need to keep innovating to help conserve our most critical resource.”
Sally Armstrong, head of customer direction and experience, Sydney Water told The Fifth Estate that during the last drought, the people of Sydney changed their behaviour around water use significantly.
“[Today], on average a Sydneysider uses about 100 litres less per day than we did before the millennium drought,” she said.
The millennium drought prompted a range of hardware innovations to reduce water use. These innovations were supported with the introduction of mandatory appliance efficiency labelling in 2006.
The future of Sydney’s water supply
Ms Armstrong also said that Sydney is fortunate to have a “secure and affordable water supply system” that is underpinned by the government’s Metropolitan Water Plan.
“The plan takes into account key challenges we will face – climate change, drought, and greater pressures on water supply from a growing population.
“Sydney Water is actively planning for innovative ways to deliver water and wastewater services to deliver the Government’s vision of three cities – Harbour City, River City and Parkland City.”
She said that by 2056, Sydney will be using more recycled water, harnessing stormwater to irrigate parklands and keep cities cool and green, and using naturalised stormwater channels to improve amenity for the growing population.