Want To Really Save Water: Inspect What You Expect

We have all heard the term, “Inspect what you expect.” Measurement of performance is one of the quickest ways to inspire change and we are surrounded by technology that helps us monitor performance.  We can easily see how many steps we take in a day or the number of miles we have walked and run on our iphones. The landscape irrigation industry would benefit from better tools like this to measure the amount of water used on a daily basis.  We have many clear examples of how real time monitoring saves water.

One of my favorite examples of what real time water monitoring can do for water savings is in the video below.  Teague measured the amount of water flowing through their office kitchen faucet at work. They were concerned about this because of the ease of water flow from the kitchen faucet, is in stark contrast to what is known to be true about scarcity of water. They developed a meter to measure the flow of water and monitored the water use on their computers. They informed office staff water use was being measured, and looked for any behavioral changes. They discovered most people were using about two gallons of water to wash their hands. They determined because the data about water use was not providing instant feedback to the person washing their hands, they were not getting the expected reduction in water use.

Next, they moved an Apple ipad next to the sink, in clear view of the person washing their hands. This had tremendous impact on the users because they could actually see the amount of water they were using. They observed people were now shutting off the water while they soaped their hands and re-started it to rinse. The change in behavior resulted in substantial water savings. People were now only using a ½ gallon of water to wash their hands. You can see a video of the project here, be sure to scroll all the way down to see the video.

In landscape irrigation, we are developing water budgets for properties and measuring against the budget to make sure we are watering efficiently. Mostly we measure water use by reading meters on a weekly basis at best. The challenge is just like at Teague, when the data is away from the source of water or delayed there is no behavioral change. To drive water use down, real-time devices should measure water use on a daily basis and compare it to a water budget delivered directly to the water manager. As more competitive and affordable technology for real time measurement is available, the water savings are going to be substantial.

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