28 October 2009

Meters matter and smart automation matters more

Shahram Javey is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose company, Aquacue, makes it easy for water consumers to conserve and manage their water consumption on-line through a hardware and software solution that re-defines the concept of automated water monitoring.

I have met him and think that his product has great promise:
  • He used his technology background to create a new water consumption monitoring solution that is much easier to deploy and use than traditional water meter automation systems (AMR and AMI)
  • More important, this monitoring device (called the "Barnacle") can be installed on meters, one house at a time by the homeowner or the utility. The industry standard requires entire neighborhoods to get wired at once, by the local water agency. The Barnacle is installed on your existing water meter and immediately after you can track your water consumption in real-time on-line.
In addition to these interesting strategic advantages is the fact that Aquacue has data showing that people (in Carlsbad,* near San Diego) use less when they have real-time information on their water consumption and the ability to compare their consumption with others in the community. According to this story:
...those who got the feedback used 20 percent less water compared with the same period the year before. The control group reduced its water use by only 11 percent compared with the previous year. The results also suggest that people who were already interested in reducing their water use before the study began conserved the most once they got the devices and software.
Read more (and get more data) in this report [pdf].**

If you wish to learn more about Aquacue and their solution contact Shahram.

Bottom Line: Smart meters work, and they will pay for themselves if they are cheap. Aquacue's are.

* Ironically, Carlsbad is building a 50mgd desalination plant. I can see why they need want the supply, but they wouldn't need that plant if they were using higher prices and smart meters!

** And yes, one homeowner really did cut use from 109 units to 47 units -- from 2,700 gallons/day to 1,200 gallons/day -- holy cow, in multiple ways!

4 comments:

JD said...

Some wastewater agencies base their next year charges for wastewater on the water meter readings in certian (winter) months. It would be intreresting to see if real time feedback had an even greater effect in those months compared to others.

Josh said...

I have a few basic water metering questions: Will prices reflect the distance, energy, etc. to each location? Or, will we all get a statewide market price that we all have to pay? Or, will we continue to subsidize the gigantic transportation infrastructure? Also, will residential consumer prices rise to reflect the below-market allocation to farms, or will everybody have to pay the same amount?

I'm all in favor of true water pricing. I just want it to be true.

David Zetland said...

@JD -- are you asking if winter use would drop by more than summer WITH these meters? Probably not, but Shahram may have different ideas...

@Josh -- you could take care of costs (no subsidies) with my pricing on top of this metering.

Ag/urban pricing, subsidy and allocation are different issues...

JD said...

No, I was wondering if the feedback effect would be even greater when more $$'s are on the line (to possibly amplify the feedback effect). All measurement would have to be compared to same months in prior years and to simultaneous control groups (with and without the annual wastewater cost incentive).