A new ITU-T Technology Watch Report provides an overview of the innovative role that information and communication technologies (ICT) play in smart water management. The report also surveys current and forthcoming standardisation work in the field of smart water management.
Economic growth, seasonal climatic conditions and rising population are all affecting availability of water resources. Moreover, a number of effects linked to climate change, such as lengthy droughts and extreme weather events, are worsening the situation. Water shortages are at the core of many of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of which is to reduce by half the number of people without safe access to water by 2015. According to the UN World Water Development Report, by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of freshwater.
Technologies such as semantic sensor web, remote sensing with satellite and geographical information systems can be used innovatively by water authorities to obtain information in real time about water use, to track and forecast the level of rivers and to identify new sources of fresh water. With the impact of climate change, sole reliance on historical hydrologic weather patterns is no longer a viable forecast for water authorities. The availability of information about current conditions in a particular situation on a timely basis is crucial for decision making in water resource management. For instance, flood water management is a dynamic process, changing daily, weekly or monthly, depending on weather conditions and how ecosystems respond to climate variability.
ICT provides a unique opportunity for water stakeholders to obtain information in near real time about a number of physical and environmental variables such as temperature, soil moisture levels, rainfall, and others through web enabled sensors and communication networks, and can thus have accurate information about the situation at hand (without physically being there) for their forecasts and decisions. Smart metering technologies can also provide individuals, businesses and water companies with near real-time information about their own water use, thus raising awareness about usage, locating leakages and having better control over water demand.
The Report can be downloaded from a dedicated website
which provides additional sources of information and an overview of ITU-T Study Groups with standardisation work related to water.