The city of Dubuque, Iowa has embraced big data for its water and electric systems and has become a model for other midsize cities to emulate.
In particular, Dubuque’s water story is compelling. In 2010 and 2011, every household in the city got a new water meter. The city’s water utility partnered with IBM on the project to help evaluate the data coming from the new meters and to gain a deeper understanding of water consumption. Results from Dubuque’s year-long pilot study, which tracked a portion of residential customers who used a related Web portal, showed the following:
- 77% of these customers said they increased their understanding of their water usage
- 70% said using the portal helped them evaluate changes they had made in usage
- 48% said it helped them conserve water
- 61% said they took some action to reduce consumption (e.g., took shorter showers, fixed leaks)
- 48% said they planned to make additional changes to water equipment or how they use water
Based on these results, the water utility estimated it could achieve a 6.6% overall decrease in water usage and an 8-fold increase in leak detection and response. Moreover, the data indicated the annual overall savings could be $191,000 across the system.
Similarly, the midsized city of Nashville, Tennessee has installed new water meters and recently chose MeterSense for its meter data management system. Results are not available yet for Nashville, but utility managers expect to see similar benefits: more accurate bills based on current usage, real-time consumption data, the ability to better detect system leaks, a reduction in unaccounted-for consumption, and the ability to automate the process of activating and deactivating customer accounts.
Both Dubuque and Nashville represent the next wave in smarter water systems. Big data obviously plays an important role, but so does customer involvement. New meters and data analysis are only part of the picture; customers themselves need to engage as well if the anticipated benefits are to reach their full potential. For more on these expanding capabilities, please sign up for and attend Navigant Research’s upcoming free webinar titled Intelligent Water Networks, which will take place August 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
Tags: Home Energy Management, Smart Utilities Program, Smart Water, Utility Innovations
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