We need water. As obvious as that is, we sometimes take it for granted and forget that turning the tap on and getting plenty of this essential resource is a luxury that millions of people around the world don’t enjoy. Whether it’s for human or animal consumption, agriculture, recreation, or power generation, water defines our lives and its management is becoming increasingly important for public and private institutions alike.
That’s why all efforts put into the preservation of water are of great significance and technologies like IoT are already making important contributions to this end. IoT technology can provide a cost-effective and efficient solution for water monitoring, allowing real-time data to be collected and analyzed remotely. In this article, we'll explore how IoT is being used for different types of water monitoring and the benefits it offers.
Water quality monitoring
Few combinations are as disastrous as having all living organisms depend on water and then getting that water heavily polluted with all sorts of chemicals, plastics, waste, and even radioactive materials. This combination results in health issues, contaminated agricultural products, ecosystems that are negatively altered, and economic losses.
That’s why monitoring water quality, as part of broader strategies, is a critical step in preventing and mitigating these negative consequences, and IoT has already proved its worth in this field by providing real-time data collection, analysis, and visualization. These are some of the variables that are analyzed as part of a water quality monitoring solution:
- pH monitoring: pH monitoring keeps track of the acidity or alkalinity of water. pH affects the solubility of nutrients and heavy metals, and can also impact aquatic life.
- Dissolved oxygen monitoring: Dissolved oxygen levels are critical for aquatic life, and monitoring them can help to detect problems such as low oxygen levels due to pollution, algae blooms, or other factors.
- Turbidity monitoring: Turbidity refers to the level of cloudiness or haziness in water caused by suspended particles. High turbidity levels can make water unsafe for consumption, and monitoring it is critical for ensuring water quality.
- Temperature monitoring: Temperature affects many aspects of water quality, including dissolved oxygen levels, and nutrient availability.
- Salinity monitoring: Salinity levels can impact aquatic life, crop growth, and the effectiveness of irrigation systems.
IoT has improved water quality monitoring by providing real-time data collection, analysis, and visualization that paints a better picture for analysts and enables faster, more accurate actions to be taken.
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Water reaches our infrastructure and the problem shifts from keeping it clean to using it efficiently. Water leaks can go undetected for long periods and end up adding several hundred dollars to the bills, or even causing major structural damage that results in about one in 60 insured homes having a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year and an average property damage of USD 11,650.
Not only that, though—with droughts becoming an increasing reality for many places around the world (let’s not forget South Africa’s recent water crisis), efficient use of water is not just a matter of personal finance, but a social issue that requires every bit of commitment and innovation.
That’s why thousands of commercial buildings across the world are starting to benefit from the implementation of IoT solutions that help them identify and monitor their water consumption in real time.
At the center of these solutions lie devices such as pulse loggers that keep an eye on water meters and track water flow. Thanks to connectivity technologies such as Wi-Fi or LoRaWAN, these devices can then forward the collected data to platforms such as Ubidots, where the building manager can observe the consumption trends, set up alerts to be notified of any anomaly, and even run custom functions to analyze historical data.
Other devices that make up these solutions are water leak detectors, which, as their name suggests, are in charge of either sensing water that has leaked on a monitored surface or detecting anomalies in the flow and pressure of water. There are three main types of devices in this category:
- Flood sensor: these devices alert the user when they come in contact with water, and therefore, if strategically placed, can be a good method to detect leaks early on.
- Flow meter: these devices are installed within the plumbing system and track flow rate and water pressure. Deviations in these variables picked up by the device (or the overall IoT solution) are recognized as leaks with a high degree of accuracy.
- Ultrasonic leak detector: these devices are installed over the plumbing system (no pipe cutting required) and, using ultrasonic technology, track water consumption to find anomalies, as in the case of the flow meters.
Water level monitoring
In the form of rivers, lakes, and dams, water defines and shapes our cities, like a moving landmark that can both embellish and wreak havoc on them. Increasingly common flooding (one of multiple effects of climate change) endangers entire communities around the world each year, resulting in ruinous loss of life and devastation.
With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that IoT is being used by private and public institutions to aid in the mitigation of damage caused by floods.
For example, Peclet Technology, an Australian company specializing in smart cities, is helping local councils monitor the level of creeks and rivers. The data, collected and made publicly available through Ubidots, is used to inform residents, businesses, and state emergency services about the risk of flooding.
On a smaller scale, there are also level devices that can keep track of tanks and troughs to provide real-time insights into the rate of water use and the need for refills. These devices, which are particularly useful in agriculture, are designed to endure outdoor conditions and not bother animals when they drink. A simple setup combining these devices with Ubidots can ensure animal welfare thanks to timely alerts and intuitive visualizations.
Water monitoring in agriculture
Moving away from the cities and into the countryside, water becomes essential for every agricultural activity we depend on. All the problems we've covered in this post take a different form when it comes to agriculture—and while droughts and floods are certainly the most destructive for this industry (costing it USD 58 billion, combined, in the measured period), things like the water quality, its efficient use, and its general availability (beyond droughts, that is) result critical for day-to-day operations.
For instance, providing water to cattle or crops in far-off fields can be a multi-layered logistical challenge that could entail, among other things, accessing underground aquifers and setting up pump systems to extract the water.
In this example, IoT can be implemented for two things: monitor water variables such as its level and control of the pump system. This way, it’s possible to take a more systematic and convenient approach to the way bore water is distributed and the overall planning of the operation—this results in less water waste and, ultimately, an improved farming experience.
IoT can also contribute to improving the use of water in agriculture thanks to the implementation of humidity sensing systems. By using humidity devices and cellular or LoRaWAN connectivity, it’s possible to monitor large swaths of land and carry out more efficient irrigation.
The data generated by those devices can then go into an Ubidots dashboard where identifying when and how much to irrigate can always be accurately determined. Not only that, the humidity sensors can be just a part of a wider IoT irrigation system that can save thousands of dollars in water expenditures by using other sensors like these:
- Quality sensors (to measure conductivity, or pH, among other variables)
Water resources monitoring
Ultimately, by combining multiple of the previously mentioned strategies, IoT can also help in monitoring and preserving drainage basins and large bodies of water such as lakes and rivers.
Water quality monitoring, irrigation management, and level monitoring can all shed light on the effects of irrigation and agricultural/urban runoff, and how they impact the level of surface and groundwater, to better understand flow through the water system, spot issues, and implement solutions.
The benefits of large-scale strategies like these, which cover drainage basins and large bodies of water such as lakes or rivers, can be vast by having a positive impact on, among others:
- Flood prevention
- Water consumption
- Environmental sustainability
- Water waste
- Soil erosion
- Power generation
» FREE TRIAL: Launch Your IoT Application To Market in Less Than 30 Days with Ubidots IoT Device Management Dashboard
By enabling remote, real-time monitoring and analysis of multiple key variables, IoT has positively transformed the way we track, analyze, and manage water resources. By leveraging the power of IoT it’s now possible to monitor various aspects of water quality, level and usage, and respond efficiently to any anomalies or issues.
From smart water meters and leak detection systems to water quality sensors and flood monitoring solutions, IoT is providing us with groundbreaking insights into our relationship with water and helping us make more informed decisions about its management and conservation. As we continue to face growing challenges around water scarcity and pollution, IoT will undoubtedly play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of this essential resource.
Getting Started with Water Management Hardware
In the world of water monitoring and management, choosing the right hardware is crucial for success. With numerous options available, it can be overwhelming. To help companies begin their smart water solutions journey, we recommend well-tested devices that seamlessly integrate with Ubidots. These trusted hardware options are an excellent starting point for water management projects.
NCD (National Control Devices):
With over 20 years of experience of hardware production, NCD is a tried and tested device manufacturer that offers products for almost every business vertical and application. With an emphasis on reliability and sturdiness, NCD’s devices are a great option for many of the types of water monitoring covered in this article.
NCD’s long-range wireless enterprise series sensors include several soil moisture, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity, and water detection devices that boast, among many other features, a 2 mile line-of-sight range, up to 10 years of battery life, and high levels of accuracy.
Red Lion Controls:
Red Lion is an American company that focuses on empowering industrial organizations to unlock the value of data by developing and manufacturing innovative products and solutions to access, connect and visualize their information. Red Lion's products tackle the need to retrieve data from old and new devices, and protect against security breaches faced by the water and wastewater industry.
From panel meters that put data at your fingertips to platforms that empower you to integrate data from different places, Red Lion’s products let you upgrade quickly and easily.
Ubidots water management real use cases
Freeboard: Turning Lake Erie Smart
As the already mentioned Peclet Technology, other companies specializing in water management and monitoring use Ubidots as part of their solutions. That’s the case of Freeboard Technology, a company that's building smarter environmental sensor networks for lakes, rivers, estuaries, and wetlands, blending proven and emerging technology to monitor and forecast environmental conditions.
Working in areas as large and complex as Lake Erie, Freeboard monitors for impacts from climate change, excess nutrient runoff, toxic algae, hypoxia, extreme flooding, dangerous currents, high winds, and coastal erosion using early warning systems, online nutrient analyzers, networks of connected buoys, and observing platforms.
According to Freeboard co-founder Ed Verhamme, “Freeboard will influence and direct the design, manufacturing, and deployment of networks of new sensors and infrastructure that are needed to monitor and protect our nation’s waters.”
Peak HydroMet: Salinity Monitoring Along the Fraser River
Peak HydroMet Solutions, a Canadian company dedicated to providing full-service environmental monitoring, is another example of how IoT, and Ubidots, can be used for different applications in the field of water monitoring. Some of their projects center on large-scale monitoring of rivers and watersheds in an effort to understand the effects of irrigation withdrawal on water level, as well as the viability of irrigation in certain areas affected by salinity.
One of these projects has centered around the Fraser River in Delta, British Columbia, looking to capture and display sensor data that can be used to monitor irrigation water quality with the help of local farmers. The project consists of retrieving salinity, depth, temperature, tide, flow, and weather information from various sources and making it readily available to stakeholders.
Quantify Environmental: Slashing Utility Costs
Another company that takes a deeper look at water is Quantify Environmental, an innovative sustainability consultancy firm at the forefront of harnessing the power of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) hardware for environmental and industrial efficiency.
Located in Ontario, Canada, Quantify Environmental helps companies identify water usage trends and develop projects that result in reductions of annual water bills of up to 20%.
Frequently asked questions
What is water quality monitoring?
This refers to the use of technology to monitor variables (pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature, salinity) that affect the quality of water and, therefore, whatever end that water is used for (human/animal consumption, agriculture, recreation, etc.).
What is water management?
Undetected leaks and abnormal consumption of water can lead to significant monetary losses, whether it comes via more expensive bills or structural damage. That’s why thousands of commercial buildings across the world are starting to benefit from the implementation of IoT solutions that help them identify and monitor their water consumption in real time.
What is water level monitoring?
Using technology such as IoT to keep track of the level of water in different types of streams, it’s possible to make a more efficient use of this natural resource and to even alert about floods faster.
What is water monitoring in agriculture?
Multiple variables related to water can be monitored in the context of agriculture to achieve more efficient and precise irrigation of crops, or safer/better water for animals such as cows or fish.
What is Water resources monitoring?
Combining different monitoring methods can work to keep an eye on entire drainage basins or large bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. By tracking the quality, level, and usage of water over large areas, a broader and sizable impact can be produced on multiple fields such as agriculture, recreation, flood prevention, water consumption, and more.