Key water utility trends for 2020


Badger Meter has announced the key trends predicted to shape the water utility industry in 2020.

Of the four trends included in this year’s list, the value of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G networks in creating smarter water metering solutions and resiliency in the face of growing water security concerns rose to the top.

The key trends predicted to shape 2020 include:

  • Smart water metering for smart cities
  • Increasing value on resiliency and system security
  • The future of LPWAN technologies, including cellular NB IoT and LTE-M, that ensure system longevity
  • Infrastructure renewal and financing capital improvements

John Fillinger, director of utility marketing at Badger Meter, said: “This year, we have seen drought conditions improve on the West Coast. However, as we look ahead to 2020, water utilities across the nation are preparing for water supply issues.

“One of the ways utilities are preparing is with the use of cellular solutions. Cities are using cellular networks to achieve ‘smart water,’ become water resilient and replace ageing infrastructures.”

Smart water metering

Many industries are incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into their processes and are seeing tremendous success. Water metering is no different. The adoption of cellular technology in water metering solutions is opening the door to new opportunities and greater flexibility for utilities. Most cities—large and small—already have cellular infrastructure in place. By implementing IoT-enabled cellular networks,  cities can benefit from longer battery lifespan, greater scalability and increased mobility, as well as easier integration of smart sensors for water, parking meters, lights, transportation and more without duplicating infrastructure. Smarter solutions, powered by cellular and IoT-based technologies, are rapidly transforming the water metering industry and helping water utilities face the serious challenges ahead.

Increasing value on resiliency

Droughts, flooding, storms and other weather-related events are top-of-mind for water utilities because of the potential impact they can have on water quality and water systems. This is one of the factors behind a requirement in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 for community water systems serving more than 3,300 people to develop or update risk assessments and emergency response plans. The risk assessments include strategies and resources to improve the resilience of the system, such as actions to protect the safety and supply of drinking water and physical security and cybersecurity of the system.

The resiliency of cellular networks is one of the most important benefits of cellular-enabled technologies. After major weather events, cellular networks typically come back online fast in order to support emergency efforts. This means a water utility using cellular networks would be back online quickly, too.

Cybersecurity also continues to be a growing concern. In the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) 2019 State of the Industry survey, 88% of participants said cybersecurity was a high priority issue and nearly 30% rated it as critical.

Future of LPWAN technologies

An evolving trend and valuable addition to the water utility industry, advancing cellular and IoT-based technologies continue to help water utilities reduce infrastructure spend, increase interoperability of data and stay up to date with regular technology updates. Most recently and looking ahead to 2020, the industry is moving to support faster, more reliable 5G networks. When the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which maintains and develops protocols for the mobile industry, introduced the LTE-M and NB IoT networks, it shared that they will be supported by both the 4G and 5G networks. This ensures longevity for cellular endpoint devices going forward.

Infrastructure renewal

The top two challenges facing water professionals, according to the AWWA 2019 State of the Industry survey, are renewal and replacement of ageing water and wastewater infrastructure and financing for capital improvements.

Municipal water utility of Paducah, Kentucky have recently implemented a cellular solution. As the water utility could not complete a full-system deployment all at once, the BEACON AMA solution with ORION Cellular endpoints offered the utility flexibility in deploying at its own pace. Utility managers even found that additional revenue from the new technology will help pay for replacements of their larger 3 inch, 4 inch and 6-inch meters in less than two years. Additionally, because ORION Cellular endpoints do not require a utility to install a traditional fixed-network infrastructure, water utilities can reallocate infrastructure installation and maintenance expenses to other projects.