Research Shows Water Shutoff Ban Saves Lives
Apr 30, 2021
Research highlighted at the latest Water Action Platform webinar shows nearly half a million Covid-19 infections could have been prevented in the US alone if there had been a nationwide ban on water shutoffs. The global issue of water shutoffs and disconnections during the pandemic was brought into stark focus at the online event hosted by Isle chairman, Dr Piers Clark, which took place on 15 April.
In 2020, water utilities and municipalities around the world started holding back their plans to cut off non-payers amid concerns a lack of access to critical water and sanitation could escalate the rising pandemic.
The research carried out by Cornell University and Food & Water Watch found that states in the USA which suspended disconnections had significantly reduced growth rates of Covid-19. If similar policies had been adopted across the country, the study model estimates that almost 500,000 cases of Covid-19 would have been prevented.
“Before the pandemic, protections from water shutoffs were rare in the US,” said Clark, “but on 9 March 2020, Detroit became the first US city to pause water shutoffs and temporarily reconnect water services for all residents. This action sparked a wave of moratoria nationally, with more than 800 localities and states following Detroit’s lead.”
The Cornell researchers ran a regression model and concluded that water shutoff bans decreased the daily infection growth rate by 0.235% and the death growth rate by 0.135%. Modelling showed a similar moratorium on water shutoffs nationwide could have saved around 480,000 people from Covid-19 infection and almost 10,000 lives.
This research demonstrates the critical impact of access to water, especially during a public health crisis, and makes a clear case for national strategies to ensure water and sanitation services are accessible for low-income households.
Efficiency through innovation
Access to water is vitally important for health, businesses and communities. So how can the water sector can meet regulatory water efficiency targets, while delivering benefits for customers and the environment?
The Water Action Platform webinar also explored research and technologies that address water efficiency issues and shared learnings from utilities in the UK and Spain about tackling water efficiency during the pandemic and beyond.
Creative EC, a UK company, showcased a product called Waterfall – a smart meter which generates detailed insight into water usage by collecting water event and billing-grade consumption data from domestic and commercial customers. Waterfall applies the principles of the internet of things (IoT), cloud technology and machine learning to uncover and use powerful data on water usage events in individual properties for the first time.
“This rich data set provides incredibly detailed insights into the nature of water consumption, allowing water companies to encourage customer water efficiency using techniques like behavioural analytics, gamification and nudge theory,” said Clark.
Securing London's water
With improvements of up to 40% required to reach the UK Government’s per capita consumption (PCC) targets, research shows reductions can be most effectively achieved through a combination of customer behaviour changes alongside utilities addressing leakage and unmetered flows. As the largest water provider in the UK, by population, the biggest challenge Thames Water faces is from population growth and development.
Andrew Tucker, Thames’ water efficiency manager, presented water efficiency data for London which has been generated through its ambitious smart meter programme rollout.
“Quite simply we do not have enough water for the future. We need new water resources to come in and we need to bring demand down,” explained Tucker. “The more knowledgeable we can be, the more detailed we can be able what is happening to our water, the better we will be able to manage this precious resource.”
As part of its drive to tackle this issue, Tucker provided an update on Thames Water’s ongoing smart meter programme rollout to every household and business in its region. Over 500,000 smart meters were installed to 21 March and Thames is now receiving millions of meter readings per day.
“With manual meter reads we were getting around one million a year. With smart meter reads we’ve leapt to 11 million a day. We have gone from a traditional water company to a big data company overnight. Our key focus now is using data, turning it into insight and putting it into action to drive demand reduction,” added Tucker.
Hosted by global technology and business consultancy Isle, this marks the one-year anniversary of the Water Action Platform, a global initiative that brings water companies together to share knowledge and innovation across the world.
The next Water Action Platform webinar takes place on Thursday 20 May at 7.30am and 4.30pm BST. Click here to sign up to receive the invitation.
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