Thoughts

A place for education, information, and insights about the water industry.

Jeff Lipton

Topics: social comparison

Top Technology Adoption Trends in the Water Industry

April 16, 2019
| By Jeff Lipton

 

 

As sensor technology becomes more prevalent throughout the water utility industry, the need for software systems to make sense of this flood of data is becoming increasingly critical. Data presentment and business intelligence tools that provide new insights to improve operations may leave utility managers with a broad set of competing priorities. In addition, the adoption and implementation of these new technologies can be both expensive and disruptive to long-standing business processes.

As a software provider to the water utility industry, WaterSmart has a front row seat to these challenges as well as the benefits that new data and communications solutions may offer. We regularly field questions from utilities interested in learning more about the state of ‘Smart’ technology adoption across the industry and whether their utility is keeping up. This led us to initiate a project to learn more about the leading trends related

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Topics: social comparison

Performance WaterMark: How does your utility compare?

April 9, 2019
| By Jeff Lipton
 
In 2009 WaterSmart Software was born around a simple question: Can social comparisons drive an improvement in water-use efficiency? It turns out the answer to that question was decidedly YES! Over the next several years WaterSmart became a pioneer in the practice that is now broadly known as Behavioral Water Efficiency . By providing water customers with information on how their water use compares with similar households along with specific, money saving recommendations on how they can more effectively use water, utilities see an increase in water-use efficiency of up to 5% .
Since that modest start, WaterSmart has expanded its reach to manage the data of more than 4 million customer accounts. In addition, our technology platform has grown to encompass a full suite of customer self-service and engagement capabilities, in addition to our legacy demand management programs.
 
As the complexity of our systems increased, we began
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Topics: digital engagement

Lessons Learned from 100 Water Suppliers

October 25, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton
 
 
WaterSmart just reached a major milestone. We signed our 100th utility partner . It's only a number, and given that there are about 50,000 community water systems in the United States, this accomplishment is, pardon the pun, just a drop in the bucket. What is important is that the WaterSmart team has had the opportunity to learn an amazing amount from these hundred partnerships. We've worked with scores of utility staff and surveyed hundreds of thousands of end-use customers. What has come from all that experience and data are some pretty interesting insights.
Given this milestone, we thought it would be a good time to pause and reflect on our journey over the past nine years. We went back and aggregated a large set of survey data and partner feedback to summarize what we've learned on our journey from 1 to 100. We hope these compelling insights form the basis for best practices throughout the industry moving forward. 
 
First
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Topics: operating expenses

Accounting for Utility Software Services

July 17, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton
The software vendor business model has evolved rather dramatically in the past decade or so. Traditionally, utility software providers (including SCAD A, customer information systems, work order management, rebate tracking, and other common solutions used by water utilities) would sell a pe rpetual license to their water utility customers who would then install the software on a local computer or server.  Customers would have the option of purchasing annual maintenance and support packages and could upgrade the installed software every few years as new versions with additional functionality became available. This business model allowed customers to 'own' the software which also meant they could budget for the technology expense in a single fiscal period and then decide whether or not to update to a newer version in the future.
 
Unfortunately this model has some inherent disadvantages for the water utility customer: 
  • The utility
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Topics: Research

Noticing Water Leaks

March 20, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton

Water leaks happen. In fact, they happen a lot. Data that WaterSmart has collected from over 4 million households indicates that as many as 50% of households will experience some type of water leak within a given year. And more than 10% of households have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons per day. In addition to the frequency that leaks occur, they can be quite expensive. The U.S. insurance industry pays out about $2.5 billion each year in homeowner insurance claims due to water damage from leaks. That’s nearly $7,000 per household which is the number two home insurance claim annually.

Water damage happens for a variety of reasons and some of these causes are unavoidable. Catastrophic weather events that lead to floods or broken pipes and leaky roofs can result in damage that is often expensive to repair. However, most leaks are more mundane and, if not entirely avoidable, easily addressed if caught quickly before extensive
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Topics: Editorial

Water Meter Data Management - To Sink or SWIM (Part 2)

January 16, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton

(In part 2 of this post we review additional benefits and challenges of an MDM and what ideal technology solution best suits water industry needs):

Benefit and Challenge 2: Interoperability Electric utilities have a large number of data systems (as many as 12+) that require metering information. Getting access to all this data is no small feat (see diagram below).

The National Rural Electric Coop Association (catering to utilities under 300k endpoints) has developed a standard for meter data system interoperability known as MultiSpeak. From the MultiSpeak About page:

The MultiSpeak Specification is a key industry-wide standard for realizing the potential of enterprise application interoperability. The MultiSpeak Specification is the most widely applied de facto standard in North America pertaining to distribution utilities and all portions of vertically-integrated utilities except generation and power marketing.

Unfortunately,

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