Water utilities are under increasing pressure to show customers value for the rates paid as well as enhance customer engagement and participation in various conservation programs.
In response, several water utilities in San Francisco, Toronto and Washington DC are beginning to implement customer-centric systems including smart meters and online monitoring applications that enable customers to understand where, when and why they use water.
San Francisco’s new My Account
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has installed automated water meters in more than 96% of San Francisco’s 178,000 water accounts. The smart meters transmit hourly water consumption data to the utility’s billing system by a wireless network. The reliable and frequent water usage information allows customers to monitor their use and detect leaks faster than possible with the manually-read meters. SFPUC has also created the web portal My Account in which account holders can see their daily water usage data and learn ways to conserve water.
Toronto Water has developed the MyWaterToronto water meter program in which customers can view their water use information anytime, anywhere, from a computer or mobile device. Customers can log on to their MyWaterToronto to view their total and average water use by day, month or year in an easy-to-read graph or chart format. Boxes can also be checked to add extra details including temperature and precipitation so water users can better understand why they have used more or less water during a particular time period.
DC Water’s High Water Usage Alert
DC Water has developed a High Water Usage Alert system that notifies registered My DC Water customers if their water usage is higher than normal. The service is connected to a tool that tracks how much water a customer uses on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Once DC Water has tracked a customer’s water usage for a full year, the utility will then let them know if their water usage is significantly higher for four consecutive days.
Providing water consumption data can empower customers to save water.
*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley), The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan) and of the forthcoming title Blue and Green Cities (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Mitidaption, which consults on climate change risks to business, governance and society.