Would you take shorter showers if you could see how many gallons you are using while you are in the shower? Would you be more conscious of your water use if you could see your total usage online? Some cities and gadget makers are betting on homeowners reducing their water footprint simply by more accurately and consciously tracking their water usage.
There are at least three ways to track home water usage between monthly bills and without trying to decipher the city’s whole-house water monitor in your yard: online, wireless and with single-device gadgets.
Online Water Monitoring
New York City was the first major city in the world to offer online water tracking, as part of the city’s shift to the equivalent of a smart grid for water.
Utility officials have traditionally read water meters manually, sometimes as infrequently as four times per year. Of course, sending out meter readers is expensive and inefficient. It also means water bills may be based on estimates and subject to human error.
Like the smart electric grid, the current NYC water system instead uses digital meters that transmit information to utility providers and homeowners. City officials hope homeowners will reduce their usage once they can track it in real time. For example, they'll be able to see the difference in daily consumption after taking shorter showers.
Wireless Water Monitoring
Homeowners in Boulder, Colorado, don’t even need to go online to track water usage. They can see an LCD display of their water consumption right on the fridge. For $200, the city will upgrade the home to a smart water meter and provide an indoor water monitor.
The device is more convenient than the outdoor monitor, and it allows tracking for specific intervals. For example, users can measure the water usage of one sprinkler session, or tally water usage for a week of planned water frugality.
These gadgets aren’t available everywhere, and can’t tap into old analog meters. However, the market is growing quickly.
Track Each Tap’s Water Usage
If you don’t live in New York or Boulder, you can still get smarter about your water usage with a range of devices for tracking water use from each faucet, hose and pipe in your home -- or checking up on whole-house water usage in real time, via your smartphone.
- This high-tech garden hose nozzle displays the water usage on an LCD screen as you feed the veggies or wash the car. The idea is that you will be more conscious of the amount of water you use, and try to find ways to lower the number on the screen.
- The geeky gadget blogs were abuzz when someone leaked the concept for the Koolhaus faucet, a weird-looking device which tracks water usage with an LCD screen and sends the data to your computer.
- Dropcountr connects to your local water company’s database and lets you know, in real time, exactly how much water you're using. This is helpful not only to track consumption and the effects of consciously reducing household water usage. It also serves as a first alert to problems such as plumbing leaks, allowing you to contact a plumber quickly.
Smart grids aren’t just for electricity anymore. Water grids are getting smarter, and smart homeowners can get in on the act.
Updated January 10, 2018.