Despite headlines of drought across the world and falling water tables, the business of water conservation using cutting-edge technology is just beginning.
On the municipal water front, WaterSmart Software is emerging as a quick software solution to help water companies empower their customers to save. The San Francisco-based company just signed three new customers in Orange County: the City of Newport Beach, Irvine Ranch Water District and South Coast Water District.
The expansion brings WaterSmart’s client base up to five, including a win with the East Bay Municipal Utility District in October. The single-digit wins may not seem extensive, but just a few months ago, the company -- which is like Opower for the water world -- released its first results from a pilot with an early customer.
WaterSmart uses a software-as-a-service platform to deliver about 5 percent savings through customer engagement. The company uses print and emailed home water reports, personalized recommendations for savings and comparisons to neighbors.
Unlike Opower, WaterSmart does not have the benefit of courting as many large utilities. The bulk of the U.S. is served by public water supplies, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
After the pilot with the City of Cotati, Peter Yolles, CEO of WaterSmart, said that one of the most important advantages was not just the savings, but that people using WaterSmart were three times more likely to engage in other water conservation programs.
“WaterSmart’s products complement the work that the City of Newport Beach has been doing for years to educate our customers on water conservation strategies,” Shane Burckle, Conservation Manager of the City of Newport Beach, said in a statement. “In response to WaterSmart’s Home Water Reports, our customers proactively are asking us what actions they can take to save water.”
If that data point can be proven out across other utilities, it could build the appeal of WaterSmart in water-strapped states, like California and Arizona. But the West isn’t the only area where WaterSmart could find interest.
Last year, water prices rose an average of 9.4 percent for residential customers in 30 major metropolitan areas, and the largest relative rate increases were in Indianapolis and Milwaukee, according to Circle of Blue, an organization that reports on natural resource issues.
With crumbling infrastructure that makes the electrical grid look pretty good, water utilities will be scrambling for low-cost software solutions to reduce consumption while also planning for more significant investments in the basic infrastructure.
“This expansion into Orange County highlights the scalability of WaterSmart's products and their flexibility in adapting to Southern California’s unique requirements and needs,” Yolles said in a statement, adding that his company is also poised for growth into other regions in North America.