Smart Water Meter Market Expected to Skyrocket to $4.2 Billion

A farmer watering plants in a poly tunnel.

Mint Images / Getty Images

Good news for those worried about water conservation efforts in the US -- the use of smart water meters is expected to jolt upwards within the next few years. Smart water meters, like smart electricity meters, help to accurately track the use of water in homes and businesses. They're starting to get real attention in placed like New York and California, and that buzz is going to spread. According to Pike Research, use of smart water meters is going to jump from 8 million installed units to nearly 32 million in just the next five years. The best news is that research shows consumers react to the technology, curbing water use by at least 15% just with the meter switch. Pike Research reports that global investment in smart water meters will total $4.2 billion between 2010 and 2016. Annual market revenues will hit an average of $856 million by the end of 2016, showing a 110% increase over the 2010 market revenue. And the technology couldn't come too soon.

"During the past century, demand for water has increased by more than twice the rate of population growth, driven largely by agricultural use... [W]ater utilities are increasingly turning to smart water infrastructure technologies as a means of improving the efficiency of their operations. Advanced sensor networks and automation systems will enable more accurate leak detection throughout the water distribution system, and one the most important strategies for utilities will be the installation of smart water meters at the customer premise," reports Pike Research.

While having smart water meters in homes is important, and will help trim water use, it is clear that the most important area where smart water technology is needed is the agricultural sector, since according to the research firm, that is where most of our water goes. Technology minimizing the need for irrigation, as well as smarter farming techniques and a revolution in water policy and legislation is mandatory if we're to see a shift away from wasteful water practices.

However, population is also a drain on water sources, and Pike Research reports that studies show customers billed based on their actual water use will trim their consumption by 15% or more -- similar to what was shown with research on smart meter implementation. When you know how much you spend, you're more likely to manage your consumption.

Globally, implementation of smart water meter systems could prove challenging, since issues ranging from infrequent meter reading, to cost of installation, to limited bandwidth for wireless communication of the meters stand in the way in some areas. Even with these problems, smart water technology is expected to grow, and where these issues do not prevent installations, the market is expected to boom.

It's no wonder the market is ready for sharp growth -- we've already heard that smart water technology, such as intelligent fire hydrants that can talk to the grid to detect leaks and save water, is supposed to hit over $16 billion by 2020. Many major companies such as IBM are looking in to ways they can develop technology to improve our water infrastructure, and smart water meters is just one of many tools we'll see arrive in the next few years.