How long until all devices which consume water have networked flow meters?


Photo credit bmitchellw

Oracle published the results of a very interesting study recently called Testing the Water: Smart Metering for Water Utilities.

Now, we have all heard about the compelling case for Smart Meters for electrical consumption (I have written and spoken about it extensively) but in this study Oracle asked utilities and their customers about the benefits of rolling out Smart Meters for managing water consumption.

Part of the reason for undertaking this study was that water shortages are already being seen in the South East United States, Western Canada, and Southern California.

In fact, according to the EPA’s WaterSense site:

  • At least 36 states are projecting water shortages between now and 2013.
  • Each American uses an average of 100 gallons of water a day at home.
  • Approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day or more! Many of these leaks reside in old fixtures such as leaky toilets and faucets. If the 5 percent of American homes that leak the most corrected those leaks?it could save more than 177 billion gallons of water annually!
  • The average [US] household spends as much as $500 per year on their water and sewer bill and can save about $170 per year by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Some of the results of the Oracle water study show that:

  • 68% of water utility managers believe it is critical that water utilities adopt smart meter technologies
  • 76% of consumers are concerned about the need to conserve water in their community
  • 69% of consumers believe they could reduce their personal water use
  • 71% of consumers believe receiving more detailed information on their water consumption would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use
  • 83% of water utilities who have completed a cost- benefit analysis support the adoption of smart meter technology

So, the public is concerned about water conservation and believes that more information would help them reduce their consumption of water. The majority of utility managers also believe smart meter technologies are critical, so things are looking rosy so far.

The data output from smart electricity meters is extremely granular and yields very specific energy footprints. With this data it is trivial to identify the devices using the energy down to make and model of the machine. However, this is not the case for smart water meters. Their output is far less granular – it will be quite difficult to map water consumption data from smart meters to individual devices within the house (unless there are flow meters attached to all the devices using water, for example).

What if though, you could tie-in the output of your electrical smart meter and your water smart meters? Analysing the data from the two meters it should be possible to identify at least some of the devices using water (fridge, dish washer, electric shower, etc.). Having this information tied-in to make and model of device would be extremely useful to help identify more water efficient appliances.

Because, for the most part, your water and electricity utilities are separate companies (or different business units within a utility), this is not a solution they are likely to pursue. However, there has been a surge in the number of 3rd party companies working on Home Management Software applications/devices.

Most recently we’ve seen that Apple are looking into the home energy management space, but others big names already involved include Google, Microsoft, Intel and Panasonic to name but a few.

With consumer’s actively interested in receiving more information about their energy and water usage and with the value that this data has, it is a no-brainer that Home Management Software will manage water consumption as well as energy in time.

How long before it is mandatory that all devices which consume water have networked flow meters and all homes have smart water meters?


  1. says

    I can certainly see this coming, and it will be of great benefit in the long term. There are some lo-tech approaches to reducing our gross over-consumption of water as well which I think are of equal interest. A huge amount of water wastage takes place between the reservoir and the end-user in Ireland and the UK (and presumably lots of other countries too). Displacing water usage from mains supply to rain-harvesting would therefore have a huge effect.

    We’ve recently suffered from water shortages in Cork as a perverse result of flooding in the first instance, and then extremely cold weather. In these cases people were queueing up for water to flush their toilets with and in many cases a simple water butt under people’s drainpipes would have provided adequate supplies for this kind of job. Of course rain-harvesting installations can get more sophisticated and you can plumb your washing machine/toilet/outside taps to use non-mains water too. Supporting installations of this type might not be as expensive to the state as the huge cost of cleaning water to drinking standard that either leaks back into the groundwater before use or gets used to flush a toilet!

  2. Michael Casella says

    H20FLO, LLC was recently granted a patent for a submetering system where small meters are enclosed within each plumbing fixture. The flow of water through the fixture provides the power to transmit a wireless signal to a hub for the generation of bills and use reports. It was developed for apartments that cannot be submetered because of plumbing configuration. Water savings are estimated to be in the 30% to 35% range. The LLC was funded by friends and family and we are seeking the sale of the patent or funding to complete development. I have been through all the usual channels but cannot seem to get any traction. Any referals or ideas would be appreciated.