The Governor of California, Jerry Brown, officially declared a drought last Friday. It wasn’t unexpected: there wasn’t a serious rainy day in all of 2013. He called for Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent.
As a eco-minded Californian, I’m all for water usage reduction, but not entirely sure to reduce my usage by a certain amount. But once you’ve done the easy steps (drying out your lawn, installing higher efficiency toilets and appliances, not cleaning your driveway with a hose, etc) you’re left with the harder job of actually monitoring your water usage.
Water usage (and this applies to electricity and gas usage as well) is mostly a mystery: you get a bill, you try to use less, you get another bill telling you now well you’ve done. There’s nothing in the middle to monitor your use, to let you know what you’ve spent your water on, see where you can use less.
Here’s a simple idea: like the aerators that screw on to faucets to control flow, create “smart” screw-on monitors that transmit usage information to a smartphone app. The only information needed from the monitor is the flow. The app can then analyze usage, say when it’s excessive compared to other similar water outlets in the house and discover inefficiencies and leaks.
It can also compare usage to other users’ average usage for similar devices, other homes in your neighborhood, and industry standards for a faucet or appliance. For example: is your toilet too old? Are your showers too long? Is your laundry machine inefficient?
The only question is whether a flow measuring device, a smaller version of the standard water meter, can be made cheaply enough so that users can install at least a dozen or so in their home.