Water meters that collect water vapour are being used by people in some parts of the world to monitor water quality and reduce the risk of water contamination.
The sensors have been developed by an Italian company, LORAWO, and are expected to be used by the Australian government to monitor the water supply of people and businesses in some areas of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.
“They’re also used in Japan to monitor local water supplies,” says Mark Larkin, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland’s Water Policy Institute.
A prototype prototype water meter can measure and record water vapours from the atmosphere and use that information to automatically lower the water temperature of a building or a garden.
LORAWE is using the sensor technology to measure air pressure, the pressure of water vapors in the air, as well as the temperature of the water in the environment.
When the sensor senses that a room is not being maintained properly, it alerts the owner.
Water meters are not new.
In the US, sensors can detect the presence of contaminants in the water, which can alert authorities to the need for treatment, or even to warn residents of the potential for harmful chemicals.
But LORAMEN says it has designed the sensors specifically for monitoring water quality, so they can collect data quickly.
For the most part, water meters have not been a big part of the homes, office or school water supply in Australia.
They have only been installed at some water treatment plants, where the water is pumped into a tank, then heated to about 1,500°C and then filtered through a series of filters to remove the contaminants.
However, Loraizen has used the technology in Australia to collect data that could be used to help inform water quality recommendations in future.
As well as providing information about water quality in the local area, the data collected can also be used in modelling and predictions.
To improve the water quality of a local area it can be useful to know which water supply is running at the best time and in the shortest time, says Loraiser.
At the moment, the water meters use a sensor to collect water that has been collected from a local river, a lake or a stream.
But LORAWEO has designed their sensor to use air pressure measurements and other measurements from nearby air sources, such as clouds and the sun, to give a picture of how the water flow is in a region.
That can be used for predictions of how water flows in a city or a neighbourhood, as the data can be analysed to see what is happening at any point in time.
“The water can then be monitored in a very simple way,” says LOROWO’s Larkin.
This can be very useful in areas where water is more important than a good water supply.
LORANGER has developed a similar sensor to detect pollution in the atmosphere.
And, of course, the sensors can be combined with other technologies to create more detailed information.
For example, when a user walks into their home, they can use the water meter to monitor whether they have a leak or not.
“They can also detect the number of leaks in their house, the number and type of water pipes and whether they’ve got any leaky roofs,” says Dr Paul Skelton, a researcher at the Australian National University.
Even though it is new technology, LARAWEO says it is also not limited to water meters.
It can also measure other pollutants, such carbon monoxide, that are a problem in the workplace and in homes.
One of the most significant advantages of the technology is that it can collect much more data than is currently possible.
“We can get a lot more detail in the sensor than the traditional water meter does,” says Skelon.
Using the technology can be an important part of water quality management.
With the increasing popularity of mobile phones and connected devices, data collection on water is becoming easier, and the sensors that are used in water meters are becoming more sophisticated.
“You need to know the distance between the water source and the water being measured,” says Michael Johnson, a hydrologist at the Water and Environment Research Centre, who was not involved in the LOROAWEO research.
So if a home is being monitored for water quality problems, for example, a leaky roof could be the result of a problem with a water pipe or a leak in a leak-proof membrane.
Dr Johnson says the LARAWA sensors could be a useful tool to monitor pollution in water supplies, particularly for cities.
“It could be an issue if you have an urban water system that has not been properly maintained, for instance, a large city like Sydney,” he says.
There is no way to monitor all of the different sources of water in Australia, so the technology could be