How much water did you use today? 50, 100, 150 gallons? Chances are, if you live in a city, you only find out your water use when you see your water bill at the end of the month (and only then if you’re the one responsible for paying the bill). People are disconnected with their water use. As a result, people in the U.S. use twice as much water as they think they do! Water bill disputes make the news every day, due in part to rising prices as well as faulty equipment or errors reading meters.
A water crises like the one in Cape Town, South Africa, is a scary reality that could be in the cards for many of the world’s largest cities. A survey by the Government Accountability Office found that water managers in 80% of U.S. regions expect a water shortage by 2023. Here in Texas, the demand for municipal water is expected to surpass supply by 2030, according to the Texas State Water Plan.
Citizens need to know how much water they’re using. There are countless cases around the country where residents are getting surprised with high water bills. In Austin, Texas, a spate of faulty meter readings led to high water bills for approximately 7,400 customers last year, resulting in an in-depth investigation and more than $150,000 in customer credits refunded for additional charges. The city’s water meter problems date back to 2015 when more than 20,000 Austin Water Utility customers called to complain about high water bills.
Data: Too Little, Too Late
When you look at who’s responsible for water use, the city’s responsibility often ends at the curb. Everything from the city water meter to the home is the responsibility of the resident. But there’s a big problem with that. How can residents be responsible for water when they don’t know how much they’re using? With limited information, they rely on the municipality for information. When surprised by unmitigated leaks or high water bills, residents often blame the city or look to them for answers, since they hold the information.
Cities need additional tools to conserve limited freshwater supplies, which are under increasing strain from pressures like population growth, migrating drought and aging infrastructure. Safeguarding limited water resources in the face of climate change, aging infrastructure and growing urban populations helps cities be resilient and preserves quality of life for their residents. For smart cities to thrive, how can municipal water services improve reporting and access to data to empower and engage customers?
Hydroid Smart Water Monitor
The solution is Hydroid, a high-resolution water meter with leak alerts, real-time flow monitoring and an intelligent dashboard. The three-piece system is comprised of a water meter, communication hub and mobile app. Installed in the main water line, the Hydroid meter monitors water use of an entire home or building and provides flow data to the mobile app several times a minute.
Hydroid is the next evolution of Advanced Metering Infrastructure.
Empowered by Information
One of the most important features of Hydroid is the leak alert system. Activities like high flow and continuous flow over time will trigger an in app or email alert to the user, who can shut off Hydroid’s built-in valve remotely via the app. In studies of smart electrical meters, people who are aware of their daily power consumption tend to reduce electrical use by up to 20%. We think a smart water meter would have similar effect in eliminating water waste and influencing users’ habits.
Another upside to customer-side monitoring is that it can reduce disputes over water bills. When the user and city are both looking at similar data, the user becomes empowered. With leak alerts and real-time flow data, they’re able to actively participate and catch problems before the end of a billing cycle. A shared monitoring system gives the municipality and resident access to the same real-time data.
Information sharing depends on who owns the smart meter. They may be owned by residents who choose to add Hydroid adjacent to the municipal meter, or they can be purchased and installed by municipalities. The consumer-owned model could allow consumers to opt in to share certain water use information with the city in return for water bill discounts (much like Nest). Water use data from a network of meters can be aggregated to protect residents’ privacy while showing trends in water use by location, time of day or other variable. The detailed data would allow municipalities to better manage resource flow and allocation.
Many people consider the preservation of the water system to be the job of the municipal provider. What if they were empowered to take control of their own water use, find leaks and reduce consumption? Hydroid gives citizens the ability to take control of their household water use and become engaged participants in helping to ensure the preservation of the shared municipal water system.