Customer Side Leaks
What about the leaks that happen on the customer’s side? When water was cheap, and sustainability didn’t have its own page in a corporation’s annual report, companies and institutions didn’t put a high priority on water losses. But that has changed, says David Taylor, chief of operations at WaterSignal, Alpharetta, GA.
“We’re seeing quite a bit of pick up on the commercial and school side,” says Taylor. “We look at school systems and that’s where there’s a lot of future growth. On the commercial side, we have a cooling tower graph that allows customers to compare their makeup usage to their blowdown usage. On a cooling tower the cycles of concentration have to be at very specific levels to maximize the efficiency, and also to determine how much water and chemicals you’re putting in. The data we’re collecting allows you to diagnose the cooling tower and determine its operations and efficiencies, so you can maximize your water and chemical consumption.”
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Taylor also sees customers benefitting by applying for sewer adjustments at the end of the year, based on the water that didn’t enter the sewer. For example, during a cooling tower blowdown there is evaporation and loss, and because that water doesn’t go down the drain, a company can apply for a sewer credit to their water utility.
Multi-family apartment owners can also benefit. Although a utility can meter and monitor the overall water usage of a building, owners have to be concerned with water usage and leaks within individual units. “We see a lot of copper pipes bursting on the multifamily side in winter, and we have our technicians on standby to monitor and alert customers. Owners can analyze the character of leaks and break the data down to look at it hour by hour, and see if an apartment unit is using water during early morning hours when it shouldn’t be,” says Taylor. “Also, they can benchmark usage to apartments of similar size and see if the ranges are within the range what it should be at a certain time of day.”
Leak detection and conservation is a growing concern for the pharmaceutical companies and laboratories, adds Taylor. “If you look at laboratories, they use water for their processes sometimes 24/7, and the industries that we work with have identified the usage of specific departments to see if they can cut back. The data highlights where they can trim the fat on the water usage.”
For simplicity, WaterSignal’s products are designed for access through the company’s cloud network. The products are also easy to install. “We designed the system to be a simple installation with the idea that a lot of our customers want to do a self-install,” says Taylor. “Our new Generation Six device will have lithium ion batteries. It uploads the data once a day between 3 and 4 a.m., and if there’s excess usage or consumption above the thresholds set for hourly and daily consumption, the system will upload the data for seven hours worth of data so the customer can see what transpired up until the point of the leak in a system. They can see the severity of the leak and if repairs have been effective, and the alerts continue hourly until the issue is rectified.”
As an example of effective data analysis, Taylor notes the efforts of a national chain of car washes, where the customer captured the amount of water they used at each car wash each day, and the total number of cars washed. The data revealed the number of gallons per car per day, and the company maximized their efficiency.
Landscape irrigation is another industry where data analysis can make a difference. Taylor says it’s not unusual to find that irrigation systems are using up to 50% more water than needed. “We show the property owners the hour by hour usage and they can compare it to the surface area and how much water they should be putting on the ground. Typically, there’s an immediate reduction in water usage. Irrigation systems are kind of out of sight, and out of mind on automated systems, and many times you have broken pipes and sprinklers, or issues that are not seen, so this software can help determine if there is damage or overwatering.”
WaterSignal can track weather data for properties based on the ZIP code, and show the property owner’s precipitation data. An analysis of water usage can reveal problems with rain sensors and irrigation controllers.