Improving the U.S. water infrastructure with IoT solutions

  • America's crumbling water infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade.

  • IoT technologies can help utilities locate and resolve leaks, monitor water pressure, monitor video feeds, and more to help protect our critical water distribution infrastructure.

  • Solutions can even help citizens better monitor water consumption.

The American Society for Civil Engineers gave the U.S. drinking water infrastructure a grade “D” in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, stating there are 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. And according to a recent story from National Public Radio’s All Things Considered 1, trillions of gallons a year are lost in part due to leaky pipes, broken water mains, and faulty meters. With aging water pipes dating back to the turn of the century, a few of which are still surprisingly made of wood, America’s crumbling water infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade.

Smart water and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies can help utilities address today’s challenges. Smart solutions take advantage of networked technologies to better manage resources and, in some cases, help improve quality of life.

Along with the water distribution company, Mueller Co., and IBM, AT&T is participating in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Global City Teams Challenge. The Global City Teams Challenge is an initiative designed to advance the deployment of IoT technologies within a smart city/smart community environment. This smart cities demonstration will showcase wireless networks’ ability to power every day solutions for large utility problems.

So how do networks help our water infrastructure? Sensors placed in water distribution and fire protection (think fire hydrants) infrastructure can collect data about pressure, temperature and leak detection, then wirelessly transmit that data to a smart dashboard monitored by the utility. Powered by wireless broadband networks, this technology interconnects utilities and empowers them with real time monitoring and two-way communications.

By investing in these technologies, utilities are better positioned to proactively locate and resolve leaks, monitor decreases or increases in water pressure, and monitor video feeds, which help ensure security for our critical water distribution infrastructure.

The technology also benefits consumers via dashboards that chart personal water usage, offering consumers the opportunity to make informed choices about their consumption.


Our NIST Challenge team will showcase the benefits of smart, network-based water technology and provide a model that can be scaled and repeated around the country and globally. This is the first blog in a series that will document our Global Smart Cities Challenge journey.

Learn more about how AT&T IoT solutions are transforming how we live.


This blog was originally posted on AT&T’s Citizenship & Sustainability blog.


1As Infrastructure Crumbles, Trillions of Gallons of Water Lost,” National Public Radio, All Things Considered, October 29, 2014

Susan Diegelman Public Affairs Director AT&T About Susan