California smart water network
California has implemented its first statewide mandatory water restrictions as the state is affected by drought for the fourth year running
California smart water meters - utilities prefer apps
Four years of drought in California has prompted utilities to gain a granular view of how consumers are using water such as using smart water meters or software apps

In the US state of California, municipal water utilities are opting to use software apps to monitor consumers’ consumption rather than a smart water meters.

Software companies such as Dropcountr and WaterSmart are working with district-level water utilities to develop apps for both customers and municipality.

The services deliver information on websites or mobile devices to homeowners, and separately delivers detailed customer water use breakdowns to water utilities.

Smart water meters – too much data

While admitting that smart water meters are the most efficient to gain consumption data, one city water utility said, the volume of raw data collected once-a-day from its advanced meters is overwhelming.

Don Smith, the water conservation coordinator City of Folsom Water Service, said working with smart water meters data has been compared to “trying to get a drink out of a fire hose. You have to come up with a way to handle that data, and that is what Dropcountr lets us do.

He added: “If it wasn’t for Dropcountr I would be spending a lot of time on Excel spreadsheets, trying to calculate all of this, one customer at a time.”

In an interview with US website The Press Enterprise, Mr Smith said the software tracks trends for customers – using percentages compared to the previous month; to the same month in 2014; and the same month in 2013 – the year California Governor Jerry Brown set as the baseline for water conservation measurements.

Putting water usage into context

Robb Barnitt, founder of Dropcountr, said the solution was less about ‘drought-shaming’ and more about “empowering people with access to information”.

The service delivers information on websites or mobile devices to homeowners, and separately delivers detailed customer water use breakdowns to water utilities.

Mr Barnitt said: “We have software products for both sides of the market.

“[For water consumers], we tell them how much water they use in gallons, as opposed to units or cubic feet.

He added: “We also put that number into context – we give them a sense of ‘this is your usage, but is a really appropriate number when we compare that to those around you’ – without giving them access to who those people are.”

California water metering

California implemented its first mandatory water restrictions this year as the state is affected by drought for the fourth year running.

In May 2015, the state’s top water regulators released a framework for enforcing a 25% cut for non-agricultural users ordered by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, with smart water meters central to the plan.