Drought Conditions in California: What Took You so Long?

By Sara Brown

I’ll be honest: in most cases, environmental activism coming out of California has flown completely out under my radar. So, when hysteria broke out early last year about a drought emergency, I admit, I didn’t pay it much mind. Why? Of course, I acknowledge there are drought conditions in the state. Still, it seems a bit much for millions to choose to live in the desert, then go into histrionics about not having enough clean water. Like the rolling brownouts of years past, you and I both know, technology is available to make our bad ideas work out in our favor.

Earthjustice.org, reports that, “on January 17, 2014, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, announcing the lowest total rainfall in the state's 163-year history and asking residents to voluntarily reduce their water use.” One might wonder why this should be news—in 163 years, surely someone noticed they were in trouble (remember Chinatown?).

But, did you know: 25% of the US food supply is grown in California, where 80% of available water goes to agriculture (takepart.com)? Or that last year was the state’s driest since the start of record-keeping in 1895, and this year is likely to be even drier (New Republic)? Of that 99.94% of Californians are currently living in drought conditions—54.25% in what Drought Monitor classifies as “exceptional drought”?

From an economic standpoint, in 2014 alone, California sustained $1.5 Billion in direct losses and $2.2 Billion in total loss, including 17K+ jobs due to drought conditions according to a study by UC Davis.

So . . . I was pleased to see an article in Wired about, in my opinion, a long-overdue case study from Long Beach, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “What took you so long?”

According to our own research, 30 to 40% of water drawn from municipal reservoirs is lost through evaporation or leaks before ever dripping out of our taps, while more than 25% of water used goes unbilled due to out-of-date metering systems.

Wired does a pretty elementary job of outlining what has been holding water utilities back from upgrading to smart distribution systems, including meters, which can detect both leaks and overuse (according to regulatory guidelines, particularly important during drought), but they fall short when it comes to how the utilities can create ROI by leveraging connected systems.

One of our neighboring cities is already making more money from reselling water to adjacent municipalities thanks to the savings they have experienced from implementing a mere pilot of smart meters around town. Lewisville, TX is not only saving hundreds of millions of gallons due to their smart meter rollout, but is sharing the wealth—to their own fiscal advantage—with neighboring drought-ridden cities. Sign up to learn more in our next newsletter.

Moreover, one can expect huge improvement in customer value—the Wired story points to a woman who reduced her bill by 98% by detecting a leak—could I have tiered pricing on filling my hot tub in the Winter instead of now, when it’s 105 degrees outside? Perhaps they could implement new, more water efficient ways to keep my hydrangeas from wilting in the heat. I wouldn’t constrain the possible opportunities to the limits of my own imagination. I’d much rather challenge our readers to find innovative new services.

And, of course, if you need help bringing them to market—don’t hesitate to call.