Inspect what you expect
We have all heard the term, “Inspect what you expect.” Measurement of performance is one of the quickest ways to inspire change. The water management industry could benefit from real time water use data to measure and report the amount of water used on a daily basis.
The non-profit group Charity Water (www.charitywater.org) focused on a project done at Teague, a manufacturing firm. Teague measured the amount of water flowing through their office kitchen faucet. They were concerned about this because of the ease of water flow from the kitchen faucet is in stark contrast to what is known to be true about scarcity of water. They developed a meter to measure the flow of water and monitored the water use on their computers. They informed office staff water use was being measured, and looked for any behavioral changes concerning water management. They discovered most people were using about two gallons of water to wash their hands. They determined because the data about water use was not providing instant feedback to the person washing their hands, they were not getting the expected reduction in water use.
Next, they moved an Apple Ipad next to the sink, in clear view of the person washing their hands. This had tremendous impact on the users because they could actually see the amount of water they were using. Water management improved immediately. They observed people were now shutting off the water while they soaped their hands and re-started it to rinse. The change in behavior resulted in substantial water savings. People were now only using a ½ gallon of water to wash their hands. You can see a video of the project at here .
In landscape irrigation, we are developing water budgets for properties and measuring against the budget to make sure we are watering efficiently. We measure water use by reading meters on a regular basis . The challenge is just like at Teague, when the data is away from the source of water or delayed there is no behavioral change. To drive water use down, real-time devices should measure water use on a daily basis and compare it to a water budget delivered directly to the water manager. As more competitive and affordable technology for real time measurement is available, the water savings are going to be substantial.
Wireless water meters give us the ability to measure water use in real time. California is leading the way with wireless water meters, and other states are not far behind. In 2010 residents of the Bronx had the opportunity to see their water consumption in real time. The New York Times reports that 834,000 customers have a wireless meter already installed and will be able to start using the system immediately. This gives users the opportunity to quickly see how much water they are using and as a result change their behavior.
What is your city doing about real time data and wireless water meters? Let us know who is doing well and who we need to influence to change.
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