How to value water with sensors

Water is inexpensive. In Europe and North America, 1 cubic metre of drinking water costs between € 0.50 and € 2.50. It is important that drinking water remains affordable for everyone because access to clean water is a basic human right. But there is a downside: because the price of water is so low, we forget how precious it is.

Sensor technology offers a great opportunity to create public awareness of the value of water.

Using smartphone apps and low-cost sensors, farmers, citizens or other stakeholder groups can be involved in local water quality monitoring campaigns or become more aware of their own water habits.

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Average price of 1,000 litres of drinking water in the Netherlands

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Just 1% of our freshwater resources are generally accessible (National Geographic)

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20 litres is the minimum amount of water considered necessary to cover personal consumption and basic hygienic needs (WHO)

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An average EU-citizen uses 144 liters of water per day.

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An average US citizen uses 340 litres of water per day.

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Event detection in the distribution network and stakeholder involvement in action programmes

Drinking Water Utility A in the USA uses its online sensors for a wide variety of reasons, including the assessment of customer complaints and customer outreach. The distribution system is very mature and has had many demographic and business changes that have led to dead ends, low flows and low demand. The very age of the pipes is in itself a significant challenge. The system frequently experiences turbidity spikes, nitrification and requires corrosion control. While the utility works hard to avoid major problems and solve issues as quickly as possible, it is important to communicate clearly about these activities to regulators as well as the public.

Online water quality data collected by sensors at key nodes in the distribution network are useful in explaining water quality and challenges in discussions with customers and regulators. When taste- and odour problems occur, the online water quality data are often useful in helping to identify possible causes and resolutions.

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