Non-revenue water (NRW) refers to water that is pumped and then lost. There are two kinds of losses. Leakage refers to water that has been extracted and treated but not consumed. Commercial losses are caused by water that is supplied but not accounted for, mainly because of metering errors and fraud. It’s estimated that EUR 8 billion and EUR 6 billion are lost annually from leakage and commercial losses, respectively.
Improving profitability, sustainability and efficiency
The EU-funded AccuWater project further improved a scalable, cost-efficient, artificial intelligence solution intended for water utilities that reduces or prevents both types of NRW. Developed by project coordinator BuntPlanet, the BuntBrain solution reduces NRW by up to 25 %. This translates into a billing increase of EUR 100 000 per year for a small utility company. “Prorating this amount to a large city could lead to considerable savings figures annually,” comments Myriam Ocaña, CFO of the Spanish-based company. “Such a reduction in existing NRW could translate into yearly savings of over EUR 3 billion worldwide.” Though very promising, it was a challenge for BuntPlanet’s solution to gain market acceptance without further testing. It had no reference sites relevant to the diverse range of water utilities’ features. To address these issues, the AccuWater team created reference utility cases. It also assessed and developed the functionality of BuntBrain tools across a range of NRW scenarios that characterise the broad target markets the company addressed. BuntBrain was successfully tested and deployed in four water utility companies. “All four represented key aspects of the potential new target market segments and can serve as reference sites to accelerate the product’s roll-out,” notes Ocaña. “Hundreds of new features have been implemented, performance and scalability have been improved, and four new modules have been defined for future development.” Furthermore, BuntBrain’s smart algorithms needed further development to deal with several variables. These include the pipe system’s size and age, the availability of readily treatable water, the degree of digitalisation, the type and make of installed water meters, the history of the measures undertaken to prevent water losses, as well as the respective water utility company’s economic and regulatory priorities. The company improved the algorithms to prepare BuntBrain for the different market conditions. Because of the enhanced algorithms, the solution’s web-based software can manage large volumes of different data.
Boosting market visibility, credibility and reputation
BuntPlanet is well on the way to commercialisation by entering into significant agreements with new customers. Three agreements have been signed with distributors, most notably with Siemens, in three different countries. Four agreements have been signed with business providers in four countries. The company has contacted 500 potential customers in 33 countries. BuntBrain is now being implemented in 12 countries, compared to 3 before the project. Thanks to AccuWater, BuntPlanet got access to new funding. Current shareholders have increased investment in the company, and new investors are showing interest. The innovation has gained recognition in Europe. In 2019, BuntPlanet received an award in the Water-Climate Change category during the COP25 Special Edition of the StartUp Europe Awards. In 2020, the company was awarded the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label for clean and profitable solutions by the Solar Impulse Foundation.
AccuWater, water, BuntBrain, NRW, water utilities, water loss, leakage, commercial losses, non-revenue water