Photo via D'Arcy Norman via Flickr CC
When talking about the water crisis, we usually pinpoint things like low-flow shower heads and drought tolerant landscaping in households, or the overuse of water in manufacturing or agriculture. But what gets far less attention is the water infrastructure right under our city streets. Aging, cracked, rife with problems, urban water systems are the source of a significant amount of water loss, with leaks going undetected and unfixed for ages. But there's one barely-noticed tool that can help us change all that -- the fire hydrant. Old, outdated fire hydrants like the one shown above might soon sport a high-tech add-on that will help all of us conserve.Smart fire hydrants that can detect leaks and communicated data in real time to water utilities will be part of our water-conscious future.
Cleantechnica writes, "Though utilities regularly monitor known trouble spots such as major intersections, a small leak can still go undetected for long periods of time, until it becomes large enough to disrupt water pressure, undermine pavement, or cause a major rupture in the pipe. A smart hydrant can provide daily monitoring across the system. That can also help reduce the utility's carbon footprint, by helping leak detection crews operate more efficiently."
The Mi.Hydrant by Mueller Systems is a great example of a smart fire hydrant we might see on more street corners soon. Latching on to already-developing smart grid technology and infrastructure, it can wirelessly transmit water flow data on demand or on a set schedule, creating a new communication network between water systems and those managing it. Utilities will be able to respond to leaks and infrastructure failures more quickly, saving precious water.
Using hydrants that are already in place is a great way to minimize costs and carbon footprints. The company states, "Because many municipal codes require fire hydrant placement every 500 feet, utilities can take advantage of the cost savings of using what they already have... Utilities can reduce equipment and labor costs and can eliminate the need to navigate the procedures, politics, and logistics of locating and installing additional structures on which to place communication devices.
Figuring out how to find and stop leaks is turning into big business for a country with water lines really starting to feel their age. Along with smart hydrants telling us when leaks are occurring, we could also soon have robots navigating our pipes to pinpoint, and patch up the leaks.
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