WATERNOMICS is a €4.2m EU-funded research project, led by NUI Galway, involving nine partners across four countries – Ireland, Greece, Italy and Netherlands. The project leverages innovative information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve management and user-awareness of water consumption


Authors: Daniel Coakley1,2,3, Niall Chambers1,2, Louise Hannon1, Marcus Keane1,2,3, Ed Curry4, Eoghan Clifford1,2,3 (1College of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway; 2IRUSE, NUI Galway; 3Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, 4INSIGHT, NUI Galway)


Global energy and water demand is expected to rise 40 per cent over the next 20 years. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in water scarce regions and two-thirds subjected to water stress [1]. Globally, 25 to 30 per cent of drinking water is lost every year due to leakages in urban water distribution systems that significantly exacerbate water scarcity [2].


Figure 1: Global water supply projection [3]

Numerous regions in Europe suffer from water stress, and it is predicted the cumulative impacts of economic development and climate change are likely to aggravate the situation where water stress already exists and Europe is likely to be increasingly affected in the future [3].

It is recognised that there is significant potential for water savings through improved water efficiency, in particular in agriculture, water distribution systems and buildings. Recent studies have shown between 20 and 30 per cent of water in Europe’s buildings is being wasted [4]. The root cause behind many of these problems is, up until now, that water has not been adequately considered as a resource. The result is that our water infrastructure, business models, and behaviours at all levels of the water value chain are not designed to ensure efficient water consumption.



Figure 2: Beneficiaries and predicted impacts of the WATERNOMICS project

In this context, WATERNOMICS is a €4.2 million EU-funded research project, led by NUI Galway, involving nine partners across four countries (Ireland, Greece, Italy and Netherlands). The project leverages innovative information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve management and user-awareness of water consumption (Figure 2). The WATERNOMICS platform will be demonstrated in three high-impact pilot sites in Ireland (university building, school), Greece (domestic) and Italy (corporate).

ICT and engineering technologies offer an untapped potential to improve the management of water resources by integrating real-time knowledge about water consumption at domestic, corporate, and city level.

Furthermore, lessons learned in other sectors (such as the energy sector) can be leveraged to accelerate the development and implementation of water-awareness, management and conservation solutions. The end result is the realisation of new knowledge, technologies, business models and meaningful market uptake as well as EU leadership worldwide in water related ICT technologies.

WATERNOMICS will provide personalised and actionable information on water consumption and water availability to individual households, companies and cities in an intuitive and effective manner at relevant time-scales for decision making.

The key objectives of WATERNOMICS are to:

  1. introduce demand response and accountability principles (water footprint) in the water sector;
  2. engage consumers in new interactive and personalised ways that bring water efficiency to the forefront and leads to changes in water behaviours;
  3. empower corporate decision makers and municipal area managers with a water information platform together with relevant tools and methodologies to enact ICT-enabled water management programmes;
  4. promote ICT enabled water awareness using airports and water utilities as pilot examples;
  5. make possible new water pricing options and policy actions by combining water availability and consumption data.


The main components of the initial envisioned architecture, (main image), are (i) Hardware: water usage metering and monitoring on existing systems, (ii) Data: a linked water dataspace consisting of a contextual linked data cloud (iii) Software: support services, and associated water management applications.

WATERNOMICS will utilise both new data sources (e.g. installed meters, new drought forecasting capability etc.) and expose the data within existing systems (e.g. existing meters, building information, meteorological data). The platform will link these varied data sources as required by individual stakeholders to provide accessible and actionable information.

Representing water usage data within a linked data format allows it to be easily combined with linked data from other relevant domain silos. It is envisaged that about 80 per cent of the WATERNOMICS platform and required technology will be generic and can be used in almost every application area.

Receiving sensor- and meter-data, linking and analysing this data are all activities that are required regardless of the application. Necessary context specific behaviour of the monitored system can be implemented in the applications on top of the generic layers. Some of the key planned actions in WATERNOMICS are summarised below.

Standards-based water resource management systems

The body of knowledge relating to energy management is well developed, with specific guidelines available to instruct a user or manager how to use energy in a more efficient manner. The water industry is not as prevalent with standards and so water is not used as effectively as possible.

In light of this, WATERNOMICS will conduct knowledge transfer from the energy sector; standards (e.g. ISO 50001 & EN 16001 which refer to continual improvements in energy efficiency, use and consumption), consortiums, and targeted stakeholder expertise.  In doing this, a systematic and standards-based methodology for the design of ICT-enabled water management systems will be developed.

WATERNOMICS aims to use the leading standards available at present to project its new platform from and so it will search both within and outside of the water sector to capture lessons learned and best practices. Work from past projects, on-going projects, within the ICT community, from across the globe (with particular emphasis on water stressed regions e.g. California, Australia, and Singapore for example) will be studied so that redundant work is avoided in WATERNOMICS.

Figure 4 summarises the specific standards from the energy sector that can potentially be adapted to the water sector in conjunction with existing water standards.


Figure 4: Outline of Standard Based Methodology adapted from energy sector when improving water efficiency, management and infrastructure

End users’ awareness and conservation

It is well known in the economic and sociological domains that humans respond to incentives. The level of their response is proportional to the magnitude of the incentive and how clearly it is communicated. Depending on tariffs, tariff mechanisms and local conditions (e.g. whether living in an area of water scarcity or not), end users may have varying motivation across Europe to make behavioural changes when they interact with water services.

In light of this, the WATERNOMICS approach is to detail how using water in an efficient manner can benefit all end-users economically and will improve the surrounding environment.

One way in which the platform will provide personalised and actionable information about water consumption and availability in an intuitive manner at a time-scale relevant for decision making is to introduce a smart-phone application.

Personalised water information can be created by combining publically available water data with private water usage. An example of an expected scenario can be seen in Figure 5.


Figure 5: Example of a personalised feedback application to motivate sensible water usage

Furthermore, such applications can also induce behavioural changes in response to changes in the price of water over time as it enables consumers to better track costs associated with their own water use.

Automated Fault Detection and Diagnosis (AFDD)

The application of Automated Fault Detection and Diagnosis (AFDD) to building water networks in order to identify faults (leaks, malfunctioning equipment, inefficient operation etc.) is a particularly novel aspect of WATERNOMICS. AFDD is a measurement science which has traditionally been used in Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems to identify and rectify faults [5].

To date, these AFDD tools have not been applied systematically to water supply infrastructure. Detecting faults at the earliest possible stage can lead to reduced maintenance costs and increase the efficiency of water supply systems. The key tools that will be explored within WATERNOMICS are shown in Figure 6.


Figure 6: Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) methods

Pilot sites

To validate the WATERNOMICS platform and the associated technical developments the project will implement across four pilot sites in three countries:

Pilot 1: Linate airport (Milan, Italy): An airport is a complex environment where flights, security, passengers and critical infrastructure must be constantly monitored and managed. Passengers only reside for a short period of time at the airport while staff and contractors from various companies work at the airport, making the use of different water awareness systems and feedback mechanisms necessary.

A key challenge for WATERNOMICS will be to provide accurate and relevant information of this complex site and also tackle key issues including analysing the business context and financial benefits associated with the implementation of a water management system.


Pilot 2: Municipality of Thermi (Greece): Located in the Thessaloniki region in the north of Greece, Thermi water management has improved significantly in recent years but ground water levels remain at a critically low level. This pilot will focus on domestic households; in almost complete contrast to the Linate pilot.

The households participating in the pilot do not currently have smart water meters but have a wide range of connected devices, smart phones, tablets, PC’s etc, which can be used for providing feedback. This pilot will look at the relationship between utilities and their domestic consumers and help improve water conservation by improving data sharing and communication.


Pilot 3. Engineering Building, NUIG (Galway): Commissioned in 2011, the building caters for around 1,100 students and 100 staff. It is the largest engineering building in Ireland, incorporating lecture halls, classrooms, offices, laboratory facilities, a cafe, and shower and toilet facilities spread across 14,000 m2 of floor space on four storeys.

Thus it has a variety of end-uses for water and significant variation in how water is used. Furthermore given its primary function as an educational and research building there are significant opportunities to engage educators, students and researchers in this project. The building offers significant challenges in terms of fault detection and an underlying need to reduce operating costs.


Pilot 4. Coláiste na Coiribe (Galway) is an Irish language secondary school and currently has about 350 students and 25 teaching and administrative staff. Due to expansion, space pressures and the need for updated facilities a new 7400 m2 school is currently under construction.

This new building will accommodate up to 720 students and comprise classrooms, offices, sports halls and associated toilet and shower facilities. As the school is in the early stages of construction it presents a unique opportunity for WATERNOMICS to engage with the designers and contractors at an early stage and monitor this new building from commissioning stage.


While water conservation is a key objective in both the Engineering Building and Coláiste na Coiribe, they also provide a unique opportunity to engage with students of various ages and increase their awareness of water consumption, data analysis techniques and opportunities to develop IT skills.

The project team will also receive feedback on how interactions with the WATERNOMICS platform can best improve awareness among the student cohorts; the consumers, engineers, scientists, householders and business owners of the future!


There are considerable efforts underway in many sectors to ensure water consumption is minimised. However, there is also a lack of development in the exploitation of Information technology and unified communications in efforts to save water. In this context, WATERNOMICS aims to give consumers, commercial end-users and water utilities unprecedented access to interactive and relevant information on their water supply and/or consumption activities.

Furthermore the WATERNOMICS platform will engage the water users and decision makers of tomorrow in water resource management through innovative water awareness games by providing personalized and actionable information on water consumption and water availability in an intuitive and effective manner at relevant time scales for decision making. The research will be applied to real test-cases covering a variety of stakeholders, from domestic, to corporate to public and mixed-use buildings.

Want to learn more about WATERNOMICS or contact the project?

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[1]        UNEP (2007). Global Environmental Outlook (4). United Nations Environment Programme. Progress Press Ltd., Malta. http://www.unep.org/geo/GEO4/report/GEO-4_Report_Full_en.pdf
[2]        EU (2015). Focus on reducing urban water leakage. http://cordis.europa.eu/news/rcn/36134_en.html
[3]        McKinsey Group (2009). Charting Our Water Future: Economic Frameworks to Inform Decision-Making. 2030 Water Services Group; McKinsey.
[4]        B http://www.unep.org/geo/GEO4/report/GEO-4_Report_Full_en.pdfio Intelligence Service (2012). Water performance of buildings. Final Report prepared for European Commission. GD Environment.
[5]        K. Bruton, P. Raftery, B. Kennedy, M. M. Keane, and D. T. J. O’Sullivan (2013). Review of automated fault detection and diagnostic tools in air handling units. Energy Efficiency, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 335–351.


  Authors: Daniel Coakley1,2,3, Niall Chambers1,2, Louise Hannon1, Marcus Keane1,2,3, Ed Curry4, Eoghan Clifford1,2,3 (1College of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway; 2IRUSE, NUI Galway; 3Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, 4INSIGHT, NUI Galway) Background Global energy and water demand is expected to rise 40 per cent over the next 20 years. By 2025, 1.8 billion...