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SmartH2O: an ICT Platform to leverage on Social Computing for the efficient management of Water Consumption

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ICT solutions to enhance urban water management

To save water and energy, it is necessary to involve citizens in meeting actual consumption levels and desired targets. An EU initiative developed an ICT platform that actively engages citizens in improving the management of water demand in urban areas.

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Water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. This negatively impacts drinking water resources. At the same time, urbanisation has become a global phenomenon, as more and more people choose to live in cities. Providing diminishing water resources to a growing number of cities is a daunting challenge. Technology that meets water utility company and consumer needs ‘In many situations, water supply cannot be increased at will, either because the infrastructure investment takes years or because it is very expensive, even in terms of the energy required,’ says Professor Andrea Emilio Rizzoli, project coordinator for the EU-funded project SMARTH2O. To tackle the problem of water demand and supply, the project introduced a software platform enabling water utilities, municipalities and citizens to design, develop and implement better water management practices and policies. This will lead to a reduction in water consumption without compromising quality of life. The software solution takes advantage of recent developments in water metering infrastructures. ‘The advent of smart water meters enables us to closely monitor how much water each household is using, and when,’ explains Prof. Rizzoli. ‘The platform records and processes such data, providing motivational feedback to users in order to reduce consumption,’ he adds. The technological innovation works to understand and model consumers’ current behaviour on the basis of historical and real-time water usage data. It predicts how consumer behaviour can be influenced by various water demand management policies, from water savings and social awareness campaigns to dynamic water pricing schemes. Customers must subscribe to the platform to reap its benefits. Project partners successfully deployed the SMARTH2O platform in 400 Swiss households and to over 40 000 customers in Spain. Outcomes showed notable water savings of around 20 % in Spain and 10 % in Switzerland. Cooperative awareness tools to make citizens better water consumers Researchers developed novel algorithms that can attribute a household’s total water consumption to single-end uses, such as showering or watering the garden. This allows for more precise and impactful water reduction recommendations. They also developed algorithms to identify the most common water use profiles. The algorithms are then used in an agent-based simulation platform to simulate and predict water use at the district level. Another field of research focused on the development of gamification techniques to encourage water savings. A board game with a digital extension aimed at promoting water efficiency among school children was designed and distributed to households in Spain and Switzerland. In addition, a behavioural economics study was carried out on the impact of rewards and incentives on water consumption. ‘Thanks to SMARTH2O, water utilities can promote more responsible use, and learn more about how customers behave and how they react to awareness stimuli and to consumption rewards and incentives,’ concludes Prof. Rizzoli. ‘It also raises consumer awareness on existing water usage habits and lifestyle implications such as environmental consciousness.’ SMARTH2O technology is currently being commercially exploited. Potential customers have SmarterWater at their disposal, a new product that incorporates many of the developed solution’s advantages. This digital 2.0 platform connects water systems online, thus providing accurate consumption data in real time.


Urban water management, water demand, water supply, SMARTH2O, water consumption

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