Water: Can Smart Water Meters Help Conserve Water?
Many of today's water utilities have either replaced their old meters with new smart meters, or are on track to do so.
Not only are newer meters more accurate--"smart" meters are capable of making a continuous record of water usage throughout each 24-hour day. They also transmit water use data to the utility, using radio signals and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).
Smart meters allow the utility to monitor for leaks, pressure problems, and other issues in the system. Leak monitoring saves water and improves revenue to pay for system operation and maintenance. But finding leaks can also save homeowners and businesses money, and prevent property damage if the leak is on the customer's side of the meter.
Perhaps one of the best advantages of smart metering is the customer interface. Most smart metering systems have a customer portal. You can open the portal on your computer or smartphone and review your own water use data. You can find out how many gallons you use when your irrigation system runs. And most importantly, you can find otherwise undetectable leaks--like a slow leak in the service line to your house or a small slab leak.
Smart metering allows the utility to notify you if there appears to be a problem, like unusual usage or a possible leak. And during drought conditions, or other emergencies, you can get messages on your computers or smartphones. Here's an example of the information available from one such company, WaterSmart.
I believe that knowledge is power, and that people generally want to do the right thing and conserve resources. So, having water usage information at their fingertips empowers people to find their own best way to conserve water. Also, when utilities identify leaks and increase their metering accuracy, it water is not wasted. Some case studies seem to support this theory:
Fountain Valley, CA Beats Water Reduction Goal
Smart Meters Can Save Water
Saving Money and Water
Some people are worried that smart meters will invade their privacy. They're concerned that the utility or government will know when they take a shower and for how long. As a former utility director, I can say that is not the case. First of all, none of the employees have the time or the desire to monitor resident's private lives. And even if they wanted to, they could only tell how much water went through the meter--not what it was used for or by whom.
I believe smart meters provide a great advantage for both the utility and the customer. They help to reduce water waste and educate the public so they can use water more wisely.
Saving water not only protects the resource, but saves money. Just replacing a shower head, or buying a low-flow toilet can make a difference in your water bill.
So what do you think? Will you embrace your smart meter and take advantage of the benefits after it's installed? Do you already have a smart meter--and if so, what's your take?