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A $163,500 AI trial is being undertaken by the New South Wales Government to inform its plans to improve water efficiency by measuring water consumption across the state’s regions. 

The trial will measure water consumption in Ballina, Bathurst, Dubbo and the Murray River Council area over the next six months using smart meters and cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology.   

The study is being conducted by Griffith University using its AI software program, Autoflow, to pinpoint how many litres of water are being used in the household and for what purposes.  

Autoflow uses existing knowledge predetermined by other water usage studies to analyse smart meter data and categorise the information into different household activities.  

These insights will lift the lid on water consumption patterns that will enable government and local water utilities to make more informed water management decisions particularly during drought and peak demand periods.  

It is the first time a study of this kind has been carried out in regional New South Wales using AI technology that will provide new information that will allow communities to better plan and manage water. 

Ballina, Bathurst, Dubbo and the Murray River Council were chosen to be part of the trial because they already have smart meters installed across homes and they represent a good cross section of regional New South Wales from the southern, central and western inland to the coast. 

Traditionally, households have used water meters that need to be read every few months to capture water use, making it hard to understand what the water is being used for. 

Smart meters are digital devices that can send measurement information to Local Water Utilities remotely. 

The project is being delivered by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water through its NSW Water Efficiency Program. 

The trial is currently underway with the results expected to be handed down later in 2024. 

New South Wales Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water Executive Director of Operations Resilience, Ashraf El-Sherbini, said that if someone asked how much water you use every day to shower, brush your teeth, fill up your water bottle or boil the kettle, most people wouldn’t know.  

“This study will bring smart meters and AI technology together to help us understand exactly how much water is being used in regional homes and for what purposes,” Mr El-Sherbini said.  

“Looking at supply and demand trends will enable government and local water utilities to make more informed decisions about water management in regional New South Wales including how to minimise usage, when to implement water restrictions, whether infrastructure needs upgrading and how to make the most of the water we’ve got.  

“If we can harness state-of-the-art technology to get greater insight into how residents are using their water, we can get better outcomes for local communities. 

“A similar trial that took place in our metro cities was a success, so it makes sense that we now do a study in the regions as part of our ongoing commitment to boost water efficiency to ensure no drop of water is wasted.”  

Griffith University School of Engineering & Built Environment Professor, Rodney Stewart, said that the university’s innovative AI software model has been created using existing water data and various AI techniques to identify usage trends and patterns that are captured on the smart meter.  

“The software will then harvest this information and categorise it into different residential activities from flushing a toilet to running a bath and watering the garden,” Prof Stewart said.  

“Previously, getting this sort of information wouldn’t have been possible using smart meters alone, so we’re really pleased to be partnering with the State Government to shed light on regional water use that will help shape future water efficiency programs across the state.” 

Image: zefart/shutterstock.com 

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