The number is staggering: 12 billion gallons of “non-revenue water” are lost globally each day- that’s over 4 trillion gallons per year. “Non-revenue water” means water that is taken from a water sources but lost to leakage or other inefficiencies at some point in the delivery process and is therefore not used or paid for by the customer. With rising populations and growing water shortages around the world, increasing efficiency and reducing “non-revenue water” is becoming a top priority, and Israel’s Arad Group has created a fly-by monitoring system that aims to do just that.
The system uses an auto-pilot drone weighing about 2 pounds (1 kg) that flies at 900 feet above the ground and can receive signals from one mile away. It relays water meter signals to an analyst with a laptop who can monitor the water in real-time, with an accuracy that can pinpoint a house with a leaky toilet.
The Arad Group is majority owned by two agricultural communes (Kibbitzum) with a lot of interest in conserving water in a country that is 2/3 desert. While Israeli companies have worked for decades to develop domestic methods for water technology, the Ahad Group is looking to export its system. Their goal is to export $2.5 billion annually in water technology by 2011, According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
That’s good news for utilities and governments alike that are looking for immediate ways to deal with water shortages around the world. A 2006 World Bank study reported that “non-revenue” water loss actually costs utilities $14 billion per year! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates losses in the U.S. water distribution system cost around $2.6 billion a year. Traditional water monitoring by hand or even by electronic systems in a car both lack the immediacy and accuracy needed find and repair costly leaks.
With high loss numbers like that and a growing need, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Water providers will have more water that actually creates revenue and expanding populations will have more water to use. That 12 billion gallons of daily lost water is enough to supply 200 million people- with urban populations rising in dry areas, this high-tech and creative option may be coming to a sky near you.