Using Information Technology to Save Water

Following is a proposal for how water companies could use information technology to reduce water wasted due to leaks, excessive watering, etc.

Twice in the last couple of years, my water bill increased greatly (quadrupled) due to leaks in our new sprinkler system. We pay the bills online, so I didn't really notice it for several months.

This kind of waste could be minimized if water companies were encouraged or required to send some kind of special notice when there is a suspicious increase in water usage — for example, a post card and/or e-mail that says something like:

"We noticed your water usage has increased significantly compared to last month / last year / your previous usage patterns.
By checking for leaks, you may be able to save water and money — please let us know if you would like any help."

This could save a huge amount of water, compared to what could be saved from taking shorter showers, etc., and it could be done at very low cost. In addition, customers could be informed if their water usage is more than that of their neighbors. For example,

"Our automated system has noticed that you are using 20% more water than your neighbors with comparable-sized lots. We wanted to bring this to your attention in case you might be overwatering your lawn, or in case there might be leaks in your system. By saving water, you can also save money — please let us know if you would be interested in our free home water audit program."

This could encourage them to "keep up with the Joneses" in a good way.

I e-mailed this proposal to our local water district, and they replied:

Thank you so much for your excellent suggestion. Right now, your water retailer doesn't have a system like that in place. However, I spoke with a rep from there this morning and he said that they are changing their system next year and it will be capable of doing just what you suggested. I've forwarded your suggestion over to him so that he can move it forward. We'll also bring it up at our next Water Retailer water conservation subcommittee meeting.

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