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Consumer Engagement: Saving Water & Money through Analytics and Behavioral Science

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Consumer Engagement: Saving Water & Money through Analytics and Behavioral Science

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Industry: Water supply

SUMMARY: A common problem echoed by utilities across the nation is that customers don’t have a sense of how much water they use, or the cost associated with providing that water. While some utilities provide exemplary conservation messaging, the status quo for many water providers is impersonal, bi-monthly billing. Through increased customer engagement and personalized analytics WaterSmart software has yielded significant results in end-user efficiency while lowering operations and maintenance costs for utilities across the West. To further engage customers in water conservation, WaterSmart utilizes social norms and taps into behavioral psychology, yielding an average reduction of water use by 5% within a year. The following studies highlight the integration of behavioral psychology, data analytics and cloud computing employed by WaterSmart to show residential water users how their use compares with similar users and make personalized water savings recommendations.

Tackling Customer Education - Roseville Water Department, Roseville California

CHALLENGES

  • Located in Northern California near Folsom Lake Reservoir, the City of Roseville has traditionally enjoyed ample water supply. Those historically plentiful water supplies contribute to a lack of awareness among residents regarding their water use.
  • Residential households represent a majority of the customer base and the largest category of water consumption for the Roseville Water Department.
  • The Roseville Water Department billing incorporated just a single line item indicating water consumption in cubic feet, a value that is difficult to interpret and translate into daily consumption.
  • Record-breaking drought in California decreased the historically robust water supply to the City of Roseville, making water-use efficiency efforts critical.

 SOLUTION/PROCESS  

  • WaterSmart software features a Utility Analytics Dashboard for water utility staff and two customer-facing tools, Home Water Reports and a web and mobile Customer Portal. The consumer tools allow utility customers to access tailored information on individual water use in easy-to-interpret units.
  • Simple charts indicating water use in gallons per day and categories of consumption facilitates communication between utilities and their customers.
  • Charting water use alongside neighbors and similar water users employs competition and behavioral psychology to conserve water. Offering customized suggestions for how to use water more efficiently tailored to each individual water user engages customers on a personal level.
  • In accordance with Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate to reduce overall water use by 20% in California by 2020, the City of Roseville customized their customers’ Home Water Reports to include a 3-year consumption average and projected monthly reduction goals to meet the mandate.

 RESULTS 

  • The Utility Analytics Dashboard feature allows utility staff to view data from an aggregate level down to a single customer. This has vastly improved communication efficiency between utility staff and customers.
  • 18,000 Roseville residents are enrolled to received Home Water Reports and have access to the Customer Portal; Roseville Water Department staff has access to 36,000 water meters through the Utility Analytics Dashboard.
  • Roseville residents enrolled in the WaterSmart program have reduced their water use by 4.6% more than non-participants.
 Powering Leak Alerts with AMI - Park City Water Department, Park City, Utah

Challenges

  • Park City invested in Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) capable of tracking water usage in real time. City Council approved the costly deployment of AMI with the promise of rapid leak detection and long-term cost savings in mind.
  • Customers grew frustrated when these benefits were not quickly realized and the leak detection functions of AMI were not working as promised.
  • The development of an online Customer Portal was deemed necessary by Park City Water Department, but they anticipated challenges in driving customers to log on and actually utilize the resource.

Solution/Process

  • WaterSmart software offered a system that automatically emailed Home Water Reports as a means of engaging customers to log on and utilize the Customer Portal. The Customer Portal allows residential users to view a detailed analysis of their home water use in addition to personalized water savings recommendations.
  • AMI interval data was integrated into WaterSmart’s leak detection technology to recognize if there is an increase in consumption indicative of a leak. The software can then differentiate sources of indoor water use to pinpoint the location and size of the leak, and send a customized suggestion on how to fix it.
  • The Utility Analytics Dashboard helps utility staff view all of the leak alerts in the city and notify customers who have not yet logged in to the Customer Portal of the potential leak.

Results

  • Park City integrated WaterSmart software in the AMI data platform and delivered its first Home Water Reports to 4,200 residential customers in May of 2014.
  • WaterSmart was able to help the Park City Water Department identify and deliver over 150 leak alerts to residents, 70% of which were addressed within 10 days of the notification.
  • Addressing unattended leaks and low customer engagement has helped Park City to save both water and money.

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