WaterSmart, a provider of Water Utility software, has released a new feature specifically designed to help citizens understand their water quality. The company hopes the technology will be used by water utilities that serve disadvantaged communities to improve communication and notification about water quality issues.
“The reality is we just don’t invest the same infrastructure resources in disadvantaged neighborhoods as we do in affluent neighborhoods,” says Jeff Lipton, director of marketing at San Francisco-based WaterSmart in an interview with CivSource. “That often means that residents don’t get information about water quality because it is harder to reach them. In many cases they don’t have internet or landline phones and mailings can take too long to get out if water quality suddenly changes.”
Now that cell phones have become more widely available regardless of income level, WaterSmart is capitalizing on that by giving water utilities a way to communicate with residents through texting and automated voice notifications. WaterSmart eQuality is designed to help residents locate key information about water quality, better understand acceptable contaminant levels, learn about quality testing services and ascertain related information regarding ongoing water treatment investments.
“The challenge for utility companies, in general, is that they are usually silent providers, and they measure success by the silence of their customers. But, that can make it difficult if there’s an issue or if residents simply have a basic question and not a complaint,” explains Lipton. “There is an expectation now for an always on service provider and the water industry has really lagged behind with that.”
WaterSmart also offers a range of other services in addition to notifications including a water-use and efficiency dashboard for utility companies. Lipton says that implementing the notifications function takes approximately 4-8 weeks to deploy. The company uses a licensing model that costs utility companies approximately $2-6 per meter per year depending on the size of a utility’s service area and the range of services they choose.
WaterSmart will be taking the technology to the forthcoming White House Water Summit in Washington, D.C., alongside U.S. government representatives and leaders from the public, private, academic and non-profit sectors to discuss equal access to quality water. In response to the White House’s request for participating organizations to renew their sustainability commitments, WaterSmart pledges, over the next ten years, to expand its utility partnership community to reach more than 45 states and over 5,000 water utilities with its technologies. The company estimates that as a result of this expansion, more than 128 billion gallons of water (the equivalent annual water use of 1.2 million households) will be saved, and carbon-equivalent emissions will be reduced by more than 1 million metric tons.