The Santa Fe Water Division unveils smartphone app to help customers identify leaks, understand their water usage, and adopt conservation habits.
We live in a connected world. Nearly everyone has a pocket device that can feed them any information they desire.
Knowing this, the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Water Division has leveraged the “smart” remote-read water meters in residents’ homes to offer a program that encourages buy-in to water conservation.
The remote-read meters (Badger Meter) were installed throughout the city in 2016. Besides making meter reading easy, they enable customers to track their water usage and even pinpoint problems on their property using the EyeOnWater smartphone app. Program organizers say customers are taking a big interest.
“We’ve had more than 2,200 people so far sign up for the app,” says Caryn Grosse, senior water conservation specialist. “Our whole goal is to get people to see beyond the dollar amount on their bills.”
Available through Badger Meter’s BEACON advanced metering analytics, EyeOnWater lets customers view and understand their usage through simple graphs. It also lets them establish alerts to better manage their usage. It’s designed to promote conservation by offering hourly, daily, monthly and yearly data directly from the metering system.
The city receives a notification from the system when water leaks are indicated. “The system designers determined there should be at least one hour in the day where a home isn’t running any water,” Grosse says. “If the system detects running water at such times, we are notified, and we then notify the homeowner.”
Recruiting by mail
The division sent inserts with customers’ water bills last January and July. The insert asked customers to sign up for the EyeOnWater app.
“All customers need to do is go to the website, type in their account number and download the app,” says Grosse. “It only takes about five minutes to set up.”
If water runs continuously for a whole day, the system alerts the user by email or text. Grosse tracks water usage for her own home through her web browser, which provides more detailed information than the smartphone app. She says many app users were surprised at how much water they used in a day and where that water was used.
“People who have drip irrigation systems were astounded by how much water they actually use,” she says. “Those systems can also spring leaks very easily, often without the homeowner knowing.” Many customers downloaded the EyeOnWater app after receiving a letter notifying them of a leak. Many continue to monitor their usage even after making the needed repairs.
“When people see anomalies, they often call to ask us about it,” says Grosse. “We use that first contact as a jumping-off point for conservation education.”
By analyzing data from the EyeOnWater app, division staff members can quickly determine the cause of excess water usage and then remedy the issue. They can also use the data to discuss with citizens how to avoid usage issues in the future.
“EyeOnWater actually lets us break down where there’s a problem in the water delivery system,” says Grosse. “When you really drill it down, it can determine if the problem is over-irrigation, leaks or other water usage. The goal is to help people better understand how they use their water.”
The utility takes a multifaceted approach in teaching customers to use the app. Staff members have appeared at community events and in local media to highlight it. They’ve found that people of different ages need different approaches.
“The younger people who are tech savvy are downloading the app and using it, but with others, there is definitely more education involved,” says Grosse. “We have walked a lot of people through how to use the app on their phones and have taught them how to download it on their computer if they don’t have a smartphone.”
Grosse says that once people download and learn the app, they often open it regularly. It’s making a difference, as data indicates those using the app use less water: “That has been an interesting process. People have a lot of fun following the app. They use it to pinpoint where they are using water and make changes as a result. Not only is it saving them money on their bill, but it is also helping us conserve water as a community.”
Grosse suggests communities looking at remote-read meters consider those with programs that allow customers to keep tabs on their water: “The more aware you can make your customers, the better handle you can keep on the system. If your customers are educated, there’s more accountability in the choices they make.”