Global investments in 'smart' water meters are expected to total $4.2 billion between 2010 and 2016, according to Pike Research.
That investment could be said to be especially smart given the bad news that water scarcity is a looming issue that will affect nearly half the world's population by 2030. In the US itself the problem would assume acute proportions with 36 states expected to face water shortages as early as 2013.
Smart water meters and smart water metering will probably define a whole new approach to using the vital resource that is getting increasingly difficult to make freely available.
According to the Pike report, one of the most promising strategies for utilities would be the installation of smart water meters at customers' premises. The company expects around 31.8 million of these smart units to be installed by 2016, up from 8 million in 2010.
Annual market revenues for smart water meters would reach $856 million by the end of 2016, a 110 per cent increase over 2010 levels, according to Pike.
Among other technologies that water utilities are installing are advanced sensor networks coupled with automation systems to allow more accurate leak detection, Pike said.
But water metering itself has a powerful conservation impact, according to research analyst Jevan Fox. He said studies have demonstrated that billing customers for the actual water consumed as against charging a flat rate cut water use by 15 per cent or more. He added that the conservation impact is significantly improved when meter reading automation is added to the mix.
Smart water metering would help businesses work out how they could save water, wrote IBM vice president of Big Green Innovations Sharon Nunes in a column for Environmental Leader.