The Wall Street Journal had a very interesting article on different tools and technology used to prevent an over usage of valuable water. Can technology help ease the U.S. water crisis? Some utilities and private well owners hope so, as about 40% of the continental U.S. battles some form of drought and demand for water continues to grow. Worries about water shortages are heating up in various areas across the nation, especially in California and other Western states, where a punishing drought has entered its third year.
In an effort to encourage conservation and manage water use more efficiently, utilities and consumers are turning to a variety of new technology tools, including software and mobile apps that let households know just how much water they are using and how that usage stacks up against the neighbors. There also are sensors that can determine when wells are running low, and leak-detection systems for homes that send alerts and shut off the water when problems are suspected.
For water utilities, running a successful conservation program is cheaper and easier than building new dams, wells or water-treatment plants. Some utilities are pushing conservation because they have government-mandated goals to meet. In California, for example, water agencies have been asked to cut urban water use 20% by 2020, to 154 gallons daily per person from 192 gallons in 2005.
That said, getting consumers to use less water is a challenge. Saving money, it turns out, isn’t an effective motivator on its own, according to research from Stanford University. That’s because even with rates going up, water remains relatively cheap, so it takes a large financial reward to entice consumers into using less. And since big rewards are often available only for a limited time, they often don’t lead to long-term behavioral change.
So startups such as WaterSmart Software, H2OScore and DropCountr have developed tools that take a different approach, one that relies heavily on peer pressure, coupled with things like conservation tips and rewards.
WaterSmart’s software creates bimonthly home-water reports from meter data that provide consumers with a clear picture of how much water they use and how their usage compares with that of neighbors living in similar-size homes. The reports, which can be delivered by mail or electronically, also provide recommendations on how households can save water—say, by watering a yard manually instead of with sprinklers during certain seasons.
Starting this summer, the water district will roll out WaterSmart to 60,000 homes, with a goal of reaching 100,000 homes in three years.
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