California’s Drought and How Computers and the Internet are Helping Us Find Solutions

~~We here at TRA Consulting, Inc. in Long Beach have been hearing, reading, and seeing quite a number of news stories about California’s latest water crisis. Experts say this has been the worst drought in more than 100 years and that it looks like it will be continuing for the foreseeable future. But there are a number of resources available these days that we did not have the last time drought reared its ugly head. Chief among them is our ability to use new technologies to help us solve the problems associated with this drought. The last time there was a major drought in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we did not have the some of the tools that we can use now.
There are a number of agencies and businesses working on this problem. One company called Leak Defense is developing a device for detecting water leaks in the home that will be similar to a smoke detector. The device can be installed by home owners and will use the home’s Wi-Fi system to alert home owners to potential water leak issues such as a running toilet. The device will be easy to install and require no special knowledge of plumbing. It will attach to the outside of an intake pipe and detect the flow of water. It is sensitive enough to pick up a dripping kitchen faucet, yet calibrated to ignore legitimate water usage like someone taking a shower. Every little bit of water saved from leaky faucets and toilets from homes and businesses across the state really adds up.
Another new development is the increasing use of smart water meters in homes, apartment buildings and businesses. These smart water meters can collect quite a lot about specific water usages and times and that information can more easily be reported to researchers who can develop more new technologies to help us conserve water in more effectively. Moreover, that information can be brought to the market where start-up companies can develop new products, like the water leak detector mentioned above, and bring those products to market.
Some public utility agencies are using text messaging to spread the word about water conservation to its customers. One Oakland-based agency tried out a pilot program that issued water usage report cards to some of its customers. Through the use of the information they were able to gather using smart water meters and a program developed by the company WaterSmart Software, they were able to show users how and where in their homes water could be conserved and urged them to take action. Reports show that many did take action to conserve more water after being encouraged to do so. The pilot program reported a five percent reduction in water consumption with promising results that it might grow if the program were expanded to more utility users for a longer period of time.
The new technologies of software as a service (SaaS), behavioral economics, and big data that have been developed since the last time we had a drought could help us to go a long way towards solving our water shortage issues.