If so, how are they utilizing the technology?
Yes, a number of water utilities have deployed radio frequency identification systems. Alco Water Service, an investor-owned water utility based in Salinas, Calif., has rolled out an RFID-based system for both security and asset-management applications. The company, which maintains a number of unmanned pump stations throughout the town, is employing the system to gain better visibility into the use of its stations, both for operational efficiency and in compliance with the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 (see California Water Utility Uses RFID to Reduce Terrorism Risk).
In 2007, Berliner Wasserbetriebe, the utility company that provides the German city of Berlin and its surrounding areas with drinking water and sewage services, tagged 62,000 pieces of equipment and other valuables with RFID tags. The company uses the tags to speed up and simplify its annual inventory of capital goods. Elsewhere in Germany, in the town of Warendorf, RFID is being used to track the maintenance of the city’s 205-kilometer (127-mile) network of sewage pipes. The system provides employees with non-paper-based work orders, and allows them to record the pipes’ status as they perform their duties (see RFID Keeps City Sewers Running Smoothly). The same application could be used by a water utility.
Multinational energy company GDF Suez has tested an RFID system designed to let its staff detect the locations of plastic underground pipes using a handheld reader. The equipment-localization solution is being provided by RYB, a French provider of polyethylene (PE) piping systems, the majority of which are designed for use with gas and water (see GDF Suez Tries RFID Underground).
Researchers are also exploring whether RFID sensors can help calculate the volume of water available to tens of millions of residents and businesses located downstream from the American River. The project, known as SierraNet, is being run jointly by University of California (UC) researchers at the school system’s Berkeley and Merced campuses, and is taking place at the Kings River Experimental Watershed area, as part of the Southern Sierra Nevada Critical Zone Observatory (CZO), an environmental laboratory. The research team has installed wireless sensors across the basin of the American River, under a $2 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The installation will provide a much larger view into the movement of water originating in the Sierra Nevada, in order to help predict the water supply downstream, where urban centers use the water from this area (see California Researchers Expand ‘Intelligent Water Infrastructures Initiative’).
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal