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The Ultimate Guide to IoT Water Monitoring: Water Flow Monitoring (Chpt.2)

Water Flow Monitoring

iot water flow pipeline

Water flow sensors are versatile and can be employed in both internal systems and open watercourses such as rivers and streams.

While many water pools, watercourses, and containers are easily accessible and monitored, underground or in-wall pipe grids present many challenges in mapping water movement. It is not too uncommon for underground city systems to have pipe grid sections dating back centuries. Older buildings carry similar issues as piping can travel confusing and frustrating paths, making parts of the systems difficult to access.

Although access can be difficult, a wide range of IoT sensors has become available that can give accurate data through only small insertions into the system.

According to the US Congress of Mayors, every $1 invested in water supply and sewer projects adds almost $9 to the national economy (Duffy, 2016).

Benefits of water flow monitoring

Water flow monitoring can present valuable data for a wide range of applications and reveal important insights to utilities, municipalities, and real-estate owners. For example, sensors can reveal which pipes are most strained, which are mainly inactive, and which are subject to leaks.

Not only is this data necessary for proper distribution from source to the customer and proper billing of consumption, but it is also invaluable for planning infrastructural changes, detecting water theft, and for general insight into how citizens utilize water. For outdoor watercourses, sensors can indicate alarming environmental changes and upcoming issues.

iot water conservation

Two early winners from preservation methodologies

Halifax Water

Canadian company Halifax Water was the first company in North America to follow a water audit methodology supplied by AWWA (American Waterworks Association). In 2016, they had reduced their water losses to an amount that saves them $600,000 annually.

The company focused on water leak control and employed the best contemporary methods available at the time. As a result, they now have a water distribution system divided into many DMAs (District Metered Areas). In each DMA, they monitor water flow and pressure in real-time and are quickly notified to act when any indications of water leakage arise.

In 2017, they also launched an AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) project to improve their monitoring further.

Philadelphia Water Department

Philadelphia Water Department in the U.S. was another early adopter of AWWA’s water audit methodologies. As a result of these implementations, the company has decreased its water losses by over 30% since the project launch. This reduction is quite impressive as the company has a distribution system of over 3,000 miles of pipe, serving more than 1,5 million customers in Philadelphia.

It was already in 1999 that Philadelphia Water Department installed North America’s largest AMR (Automatic Meter Reading) system, later followed by the construction of a full-scale DMA (District Metered Areas) system with advanced pressure management through the usage of acoustic leak detection sensors.

Ultrasonic sensors

Ultrasonic sensors are excellent for mapping water flow when pipes, bridges, and similar areas offer a roof structure more or less above the watercourse.

iot water flow monitoring bridge

The sensor consists of a transducer with a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter will ping the bottom structure, i.e., send high-frequency sound wave pulses to the bottom of the water pool, and the receiver will catch an echo. The more compact the echo readings are, the more water between sensor and bottom structure.

When monitoring a watercourse, the pulse reflection reads the flow velocity. Depending on velocity, the ultrasonic waves will generate different frequencies that are analyzed to calculate the water flow.

There are also clamp-on variants available for monitoring challenging pipe grids. These variants are somewhat less accurate and more costly than sensors inserted into the pipes, but they can be employed more easily.

Radar sensors

Similar to ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors send out electromagnetic waves at the speed of light, which are then reflected by the water back to the sensor. The water depth is then calculated based on the delay of the reflection.

These devices are highly accurate when set up correctly as they are not affected by conditions such as humidity and mist – in contrast to ultrasonic sensors. Other strengths of radar- and ultrasonic sensors is that they do not impinge on any water flow or become subject to algae and similar deteriorating conditions (due to their placement above water).

sensative lorawan puck radar sensor

Sensative’s Puck Radar is a sturdy IoT device that can be mounted on a range of surfaces and objects. It features a 60Ghz radar sensor with a 10-meter range from Acconeer. This device is an excellent example of how varied the designs of radar sensors and how broad the use cases are. The Puck Radar can be utilized to monitor depth of a range of natural liquids and materials such as water or snow, just as it can be employed to monitor parking lot- and waste bin activity.

Shop for Products

The Puck Radar sensor can be found and ordered via our webshop. For larger quantities or if you want to discuss your needs, please contact us and we will guide you through the process.

If you are interested in employing our DiMS IoT platform Yggio with Puck Radar, want to see a demo, or need help tailoring a solution for your specific needs, contact our sales team to evaluate your requirements and possibilities. 

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