Smart Water Management Transforms U.S. Cities

Poor water management is a growing concern across the globe. Here’s how smart water technology can help mitigate these challenges.

March 21, 2024

Poor water management is a growing concern across the globe. Freshwater stores are approaching depletion, resulting in a lack of access to safe drinking water. As climate conditions worsen and populations grow, these issues will only magnify. This means implementing smart water management is of the utmost importance. Keep reading to learn about the United States’ ongoing water crisis and how it can be mitigated through smart technology. 

What is smart water management? 

Smart water management refers to the administration and distribution of water resources using smart technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as digital sensors and meters. Smart water management can be applied to various sectors, including agriculture, industry, and metropolitan infrastructure. With smart water management systems, municipalities can improve how they approach water treatment, leakage detection, water quality and consumption monitoring, asset management, pressure control, and risk management. With improved water management comes augmented quality of life for people who live and work in these cities (Kim, 2019; Bernard, 2022). 

The Current State of Water Management in the U.S. 

As water resources become more scarce, the need to conserve water becomes increasingly vital, as does the need to keep the existing water supply unpolluted and safe to drink. Here are some of the pressing issues with U.S. water management today. 

  • Poor Water Quality

In the U.S., much of our water infrastructure is outdated and in need of repair. This can lead to devastating consequences for American citizens. In 2022, flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, caused damage to a water treatment plant that left over 150,000 people without clean drinking water for several weeks. However, Jackson is not the only place with unsafe drinking water. In Buffalo, New York, the majority of homes are over 80 years old, as are the pipes that deliver water to these residences. Old pipes often contain lead — a neurotoxin that can cause damage to the brain. As a result, almost six percent of children in Buffalo have high levels of lead in their blood, which could lead to fatality (Greenfield, 2023). 

  • Dwindling Water Resources 

Climate change, population growth, and pollution all impact the quantity and quality of the U.S.’s water supply. Environmental experts, such as Princeton University professor and researcher Reed Maxwell, warn that America is “certainly in a water crisis.” Freshwater accounts for only 2.5 percent of all water on Earth, and research has shown that freshwater basins across the U.S. may be unable to keep up with monthly water demands by 2071, leaving Americans without access to safe drinking water. The steadily growing U.S. population only serves to exacerbate this issue (Zee and Gewecke, 2023). 

  • Water Waste

When we complete daily activities such as showering, flushing the toilet, washing the dishes, and making coffee, the water expended during these activities becomes unusable and must be disposed of. Thus, the amount of water used during these everyday actions is known as water waste. In the U.S., water is wasted at a higher rate than in other parts of the world. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American family uses over 9,000 gallons of water per year. There are several contributors to this astronomical water waste, including leaky household appliances and a lack of water conservation efforts. Water waste is also significantly heightened by commercial and industrial activities, such as manufacturing products (Safdie, 2023). 

Technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) systems also contribute to a significant amount of water waste. In Arizona, a Microsoft data center used to support AI and cloud computing endeavors is draining the town of Goodyear’s water supply. AI requires a significant amount of electricity to run, so to prevent overheating, engineers at data centers cool the servers down with water. This massive water consumption has a devastating impact on both the environment and the Goodyear community, where residents are already facing a water crisis (Dupré, 2024). 

How to Improve Water Infrastructure With Smart Technology

Implementing smart technology is an excellent way to combat many of the issues facing the U.S.’s flawed water management system. Here are some of the main applications of smart water management technology. 

  • Water Recycling 

When it comes to water conservation efforts, experts have urged that recycling water can vastly improve the U.S.’s current water scarcity issues. The director of Urban Water Policy with Stanford University’s “Water in the West Initiative,” Newsha Ajami, states: “If we think about the cities that we have right now, it’s pretty much a one-use system. So, water comes in, we use it once, it goes out. You flush down the toilet the same water that you drink, which is not very efficient…” If toilet water were recycled from dishwashers, sinks, or showers instead, indoor domestic water usage could be significantly reduced (Malloy, 2021). 

  • Detecting Damage to Municipal Water Systems 

The IoT is a form of smart technology often employed to monitor things like city traffic safety, but it can also be used to observe and record water management systems. IoT sensors can identify system irregularities like leaks, infrastructure damage or failure, abnormally high or low water usage, and the presence of contaminants. The data collected by these sensors allows any malfunctions or concerns to be addressed promptly and helps reveal ways to elevate the performance of water management systems, in turn preventing future system breakdowns and reducing infrastructure costs by millions of dollars (Goldfarb, 2020). 

  • AI for Smart Water Management

AI and cloud computing technology require a significant amount of energy and water to run and keep the systems from overheating. However, it’s possible that AI could fix the very problem it’s currently causing. AI is an essential tool in many smart water management systems, allowing municipalities to monitor natural water sources, identify leaks, and evaluate the best time of day to transfer water between reservoirs to minimize water loss due to evaporation (Li, 2024). Thus, AI could potentially help solve the water usage issue it has created.

  • Improving Public Health 

IoT sensors have also proved effective at helping manage public health concerns. For example, scientists were able to identify traces of the coronavirus in wastewater samples. This information enables authorities to track outbreaks of COVID-19 and locate areas with high rates of infection. By determining where the hotspots of contagion are, governments can reduce the need for broad lockdown protocols, instead implementing a more targeted approach. 

Monitoring sewage systems through smart technology could help prevent disease outbreaks altogether. After observing sewage samples collected in Turin and Milan, Italian scientists discovered that COVID-19 may have arrived in Italy long before what was previously thought. Had this sewage been tested before the pandemic, government officials may have been able to address this public health crisis much earlier (Goldfarb, 2020). 

  • Monitoring Water Usage

Dragan Savic, the chief executive officer of KWR Water Research Institute in the Netherlands, believes the first step to conserving water is monitoring our water usage: “Water is less measured than other systems, like transportation. If you don’t measure it, you cannot manage it.” As mentioned above, many U.S. households waste exorbitant amounts of water each year. However, if people were given a way to understand and monitor how much water they use, they might be better able to curb their wastefulness. For instance, a water monitoring device could tell you when you use too much water in the shower, helping you make more environmentally friendly decisions in your daily life (Malloy, 2021). 

Current Smart Water Management Initiatives

While the U.S. has a long way to go when it comes to innovating the country’s current water management system, some cities are already making efforts to improve their water infrastructure. Here are a couple of the most effective implementations of smart water management practices in the U.S.

  • New York, New York

With over 8.5 million residents, New York is one of the most densely populated cities in the entire world. Thus, it’s no surprise that New York’s water consumption is exceedingly high — the city uses approximately one billion gallons of water daily. To address this issue, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection implemented an Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system. The AMR system helps the city understand the way water is being used and identifies potential leaks based on unusual spikes in consumption. This program has proved massively effective, helping residents lower their water bills for a combined 73 million dollars in savings (Lai, 2022). Does this article share how much usage was reduced?

  • Kansas City, Missouri 

The municipality of Kansas City, Missouri, recently installed a smart sewage management system and a smart stormwater management system for 1.2 million dollars. These systems allow water flow to be monitored and managed and stormwater detention to be carried out autonomously. Kansas City taxpayers are expected to see over one billion dollars in savings in the next several years due to the effect of this smart technology (Goldfarb, 2020), while sewer overflow is anticipated to reduce from 6.4 billion gallons yearly to 1.4 billion gallons (Hamblen, 2018).

The present U.S. water crisis requires immediate action from policymakers, municipalities, and civilians alike. Smart water management is a promising solution for many of the current issues affecting water quality and waste in America. Not only would this technology help to address concerns about the safety and availability of drinking water, but it would also allow both cities and citizens to save money by increasing the efficiency of water management systems and reducing unnecessary water usage. 


Smart City Works is a non-profit focused on solving urban challenges through technology and innovation that fosters greater economic development. We harness the power of digital technology to create smart, sustainable, and resilient communities. 

Contact us today to learn more about how Smart City Works can help you innovate your organization, business, or community. 


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