Water Usage & Energy Reduction: 7 Steps to Savings

by | Feb 22, 2019

The complexity of managing water continues to escalate, especially with the effects of climate change leading to an abundance of water in some areas and drought conditions elsewhere. This is leading many areas to increase regulation, raise rates, and tighten budgets around water use as part of aggressive conservation efforts. Fortunately, smart water management technologies can deliver the sophistication necessary to keep pace with all of these changes and bring new levels of automation and remote management to help reduce water waste and increase operational efficiency.

From irrigation to flow management to leak detection, the seven solutions outlined below show that everywhere water goes should have a parallel technology making sure as little as possible is being used to fulfill your needs.

1. Data Analytics and Visibility

Many sites still use their monthly bill to get most of their water data, none of which is interpreted beyond basic usage. If you start managing water across many sites or properties, this issue worsens as you’re getting different bills from different agencies. Water bills are never an effective way to track usage. By the time they arrive, the information is far too late. It would be like getting on a scale in December to track your New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. But if you use the same technology to measure and standardize on the same water data at every site, and consolidate it across your entire portfolio, you have the raw data on a daily basis for proper budget management, compliance management, and operational visibility.

Salt Lake County in Utah lacked visibility into its real-time water usage. They had to wait until the water bill arrived to see how much was actually being used, plus different regions had different water agencies, so there was never a way to consolidate and report on water usage, regardless of goals or budgets. This made it difficult for them to tackle any sustainability goals or keep to any water use budgets. Having access to daily data that automatically rolled up into at-a-glance reports and dashboards changed the entire way they manage water.

2. Leak Visibility

Water leaks are just a matter of when, not if. When it comes to irrigation or building management, leaks can easily go unnoticed and become part of your regular operating expenses. A leak detection solution monitors your usage in real-time and detects leaks, even if they started long before the system was installed. When the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) installed a leak detection system at 14 of its car washes, the system immediately detected leaks at a handful of sites. At one site, an improperly set valve was sending over 600 gallons per hour down the drain. The city estimated that over $100,000 could have been saved per year if leaks were being actively monitored, and the LAPD’s leak detection system returned its investment at all 14 sites in a matter of months.

3. Remote Management

Rising labor costs and staff consolidation means fewer people are often managing more properties or sites. If those sites are geographically distributed, and require compliance with different water agency requirements, the complexity magnifies. The ability to view and manage multiple, geographically distributed properties from one location has shifted from a “nice to have” to a critical feature, especially for properties with minimal staff.

4. Cloud-based Control

Irrigation systems capable of sending data to, and receiving information from, the cloud can adjust watering schedules based on recent and future weather conditions and manage very large irrigation systems without requiring complex local infrastructure. By keeping your data in the cloud, and not on one person’s computer, you can easily expand the number of stakeholders and manage your irrigation data over time to unpack historic trends and plan and execute sustainability and efficiency programs.

5. User-Friendly Platforms/Interfaces

Water management solutions need to accommodate how people actually work, whether that means communicating in Spanish or English, via a browser-based dashboard or a mobile app, or if they are an executive, building manager, or landscape maintainer. The product interface needs to be intuitive without complex training requirements, and tuned to make any user able to achieve their goals more efficiently. Gachina Landscape Management said smart irrigation controllers all have different value propositions, but any “large station count systems can be a nightmare from a management perspective.” The user interface is where the users are going to spend the majority of their time once the hardware is installed and running, so it is critical that it meets your needs.

6. Flexible Irrigation Control

Whatever kind of site is under management, the system needs to make irrigation happen around your needs, and not the other way around. If certain zones need to be watered first, specific zones need to be paused for a few days, or a sports field needs to be ready for practice at a certain time (and not still wet), those intricacies need to be easy to manage. Old, timer-based systems had little complexity, but also very little control. So, it is important that as your site gains more complexity, the system stays intuitive and approachable.

7. Hydraulics Management

Water moves through a highly complex system of pipes of different sizes and ages as it goes from a property’s main water source to its irrigation system. Hydraulics management (also called flow management) finds the most efficient way to safely push water through the various pipes to a particular location. It also ensures you get as much water as possible from your source to its destination.

A west coast-based church recently had to balance maintaining the beautiful landscapes across its various locations with new state-mandated water restrictions. Its existing system couldn’t put down enough water to maintain plant health within the shortened water window. By adding a hydraulic management system, their total watering time was reduced by six hours. The church then added higher-efficiency nozzles that enabled more precise spraying with less water. The new nozzles took slightly longer to irrigate, but they still had enough time within the new smaller watering window, ultimately using less water and less time.

Proper hydraulics management enables you to put the maximum amount of water down as efficiently and as quickly as possible within a specified water window, all while ensuring the landscape has proper absorption time (so you’re not just watering the parking lot).

Technology Makes Your Water Usage Smart

It took water 4.5 billion years to form oceans and cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and, comparatively, industrial use is the tiniest sliver at the end of this incomprehensible timeline. But given the challenges we now face, it demands our attention on how efficiently we use it, how aggressively we monitor it, and how rigorously we conserve it. If you haven’t checked your water agency’s restrictions in the past six months, are you already out of compliance and not even aware of it? If you blindly pay your bill each month, are you unaware that you are dumping hundreds of gallons down the drain because of a massive leak? Smart water technology gives you the data and information you need to use as little water as possible to accomplish everything you desire in the most efficient way.

By Peter Carlson, CTO of HydroPoint

Want to learn more about water/energy reduction technology and savings? Head to Denver for the 4th Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference (ELEMCON), May 13-15. 

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