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COMMENTARY | Communities can optimize water usage, minimize waste and promote sustainable practices.
The recent breakthrough agreement between Arizona, California, Nevada and the federal government marks a crucial step in conserving water resources amid the drought-strained Colorado River. The Colorado River watershed is the seventh-largest drainage basin in North America and serves about 40 million people.
The agreement ensures that major Western cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles, as well as productive farmland, continue to have access to vital water supplies. The three states committed to cutting water usage by 3 million acre-feet to qualify for federal grants under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Those payments will total about $1.2 billion.
In the face of dwindling water levels, technology has emerged as a valuable tool to help conserve water. Here are three ways in which software can assist communities in their water conservation efforts.
Water Consumption Monitoring
Technology can play a crucial role in promoting water conservation in residential areas. Smart meters and sensors can be installed in households to monitor and analyze water usage patterns around the clock. Just as similar technology has helped utilities monitor energy use, smart meters can play a crucial role in promoting water conservation in residential areas. They can send alerts to households exceeding certain thresholds so residents can identify and fix leaks and take steps to reduce water waste by optimizing shower durations and adopting water-efficient appliances.
By providing real-time data on consumption, smart meters can empower residents to make informed choices about their water usage. A 2018 pilot policy in Fresno, California, used smart meter data to enforce water-use restrictions, leading to a reduction in water usage. Researchers observed a 3% decline in water consumption over the three-month initiative, with households continuing to conserve even after the program concluded. Had the policy been scaled, researchers say it would have saved the city 394 million gallons of water annually.
Smart Irrigation Systems
Agriculture is one of the primary contributors to water consumption. According to a U.S. Geological Survey report, irrigation accounted for 42% of the nation's total freshwater withdrawals in 2015. With the adoption of advanced software and sensors that can monitor soil moisture levels, weather conditions and plant requirements in real-time, farmers can conserve substantial amounts of water.
Studies show a range of 15%-40% reduction in water use when farmers adopt smart irrigation controls. By collecting and analyzing data, agriculture producers can optimize irrigation schedules and deliver precise amounts of water directly to crops, reducing water loss due to evaporation and runoff. Additionally, these systems can send alerts and recommendations to farmers, allowing them to make informed decisions and respond promptly to changing conditions.
Water Management Platforms
Efficient water management is vital for sustainable resource allocation. Cloud-based software platforms can integrate data from multiple sources, including reservoir levels, weather forecasts and consumption patterns, to give utilities and governments a clear line of sight into their water-saving strategies. These platforms enable authorities to make informed decisions regarding water allocation, distribution and conservation efforts. Advanced algorithms can analyze historical data and predict future trends, aiding in proactive planning and minimizing water waste.
More importantly, robust water management frameworks can facilitate communication and collaboration among stakeholders, such as water districts, cities and tribes, fostering a collective effort to conserve water resources.
The breakthrough agreement among Arizona, California, Nevada and the federal government is a significant step forward in addressing the water crisis along the Colorado River. To sustain water supplies in the long term, communities must embrace innovative solutions. Technology offers immense potential to help communities conserve water resources effectively. Through water consumption monitoring, smart irrigation systems and water management platforms, communities can optimize water usage, minimize waste and promote sustainable practices. It is imperative for stakeholders to invest in and adopt these technological solutions as part of a collective effort to ensure a sustainable future for the region's water resources.
Alexey Istomin is VP of strategic development at Orion Innovation.