California wine country to benefit from Haifa study
Water-monitoring system developed by IBM’s Israeli labs allows close observation of pressure valves, reduces leakage.
Abaya boutique winery Photo: Anatoly Michaelo
Water conservation tools developed in Haifa research labs will soon be arriving
at Northern California’s wine country, in order to reduce water loss for the
more than 600,000 people who live in the Valley of the Moon Water
Building upon a cooperation agreement signed in June 2010
between IBM and the Sonoma County Water Agency, the technological giant has
installed analytic devices and sensors that reduce water loss by making pressure
adjustments based on usage, weather and environmental conditions, the company
announced on Wednesday morning.
The system itself was developed by
scientists at IBM Research in Haifa. In addition to reducing water loss, a
better pressure management system can also save energy and decrease wear on
existing infrastructure, the researchers said.
“We are proud to partner
with IBM and SCWA on this First of a Kind Program to field test a non-invasive
analytical tool to better manage water pressure and potentially locate leaks,
said Krishna Kumar, general-manager of Valley of the Moon Water District, which
purchases water wholesale from the Sonoma County Water Agency.
system, now in its pilot stage, has been running since October and will operate
for another three to six months before presumably proceeding to a commercial
stage – although the parties have not yet signed a commitment for this step,
Pnina Vortman, research relationship manager for IBM’s smarter water solutions,
told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“We saw a reduction in the number of
pressure spikes,” she said of the system’s progress thus far. “It really reduced
In any water system, system operators must strive to
maintain a balance of all the different parameters involved. Pressure levels in
all valves are one of these key parameters Vortman explained.
On a normal
basis, managing the pressure of a water system presents many challenges, and the
Valley of the Moon staff have always had to adjust the pressure of each valve
manually – which proves inefficient and time-consuming, according to IBM.
Meanwhile, because water systems are made up of pipes, valves, pumps, tanks and
other equipment, they can be challenging to pinpoint which valve exactly to
adjust where, as well as the ramifications of such a decision.
example, if a worker reduces the pressure to one pipe to prevent leaks, this
could also mean a loss of pressure in consumer taps, the company
Likewise, if the worker increases the pressure in one water
tank to ensure that it is filled, other tanks may not empty as quickly. The new
technology, however, aims to give water suppliers quick and detailed access as
to which valves in particular need adjustments.
“With this system, the
computer has the ability to really put multiple parameters, [set] most of the
values and run the hydrologic simulator thousands of times, every time changing
something else,” Vortman said, noting that this type of simulation is something
that no individual person could ever do.
While this is the first pilot
system of its type for IBM, the company is currently in the process of setting
up two other pilot programs elsewhere, and this type of technology could be
beneficial essentially anywhere – including in Israel, according to
“It is required anywhere,” she said.
“We are lucky that
we have a good water system in Israel, but certainly it could be beneficial in
Israel. I must say that in Israel one of the advantages is that the leakage and
water loss, at least based on what Mekorot and the Water Authority say [about 11
percent], is relatively low.”
In the United States, by comparison, the
average leakage percentage is about 20-25%, while in certain very old cities
like Philadelphia, the percentage can be as high as 40-50%, she
There are currently 880,000 miles worth of water pipes in the
United States, many of which have been in service for decades and have
significant water loss, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Meanwhile, in February of 2010, the governor of California set a statewide goal
of reducing water consumption by 20 percent by 2020.
leaks is not only about reducing water loss, but is also about reducing pipe
bursts that cause hours of labor and traffic as a result, Vortman argued. Thus
far, most technologies dealing with leaky pipes serve to detect leaks after they
occur, while this technology is aiming to be more preemptive, she
The results in the Valley of the Moon have proven successful so
far, and the region has been able to fill their water tanks to higher levels by
monitoring pressure more closely.
“They are able to change things kind of
virtually in the system and see what happens before they do it for real,”
Vortman said. “It’s really a type of game where you can learn a lot about the
system you manage without going into the pits.”