Metering and Irrigation Control
Chris Spain, Chief Strategy Officer, HydroPoint Data Systems, says his company is named for purpose of realizing efficiency and conservation for customers through better analytics and data for water.
“The water network is a complex system with interrelated parts—supply, usage, and treatment,” adds Spain. “Understandably, the focus has been on supply and treatment, such as public health reasons. But end use represents a huge opportunity to affect the two other segments. You get significantly reduced water waste and water runoff with the end use component. You can materially reduce the need for supply and waste treatment on the other two sides of the segment.”
That creates an “economic and green benefit” for the water agency, the environment, and end users, he points out.
That will be critical in coming years to address the weather extremes being predicted due to climate change.
“Technology is going to have to respond,” says Spain. “There’s a glimmer of hope in regards to meeting these constraints and challenges in the proliferation of relatively inexpensive wireless communication systems and advanced data systems and being able to adjust and gather data in real time. The ability of complex analytics offers the real vision about how we’re going to get ourselves out of this mess.”
Such technology addresses the low-hanging fruit for conservation against the backdrop of water waste, Spain says, adding his company’s system can save up to 45% of water use. It has about a two-year payback, offering end users to meet economic requirements as well as “green” benefits, he says.
Through a program called Smart Yard, HydroPoint Data Systems pairs with water agencies, which finance the cost of installation and services interest-free over a five-year period so a customer’s water bill is lower than the savings, with the fee placed on the water bill.
Local businesses do the installation and inspections, and customers who won’t be saving as much are filtered out of the program.
“When we looked at the whole urban water use spectrum, we saw that outdoor water use was a huge area of waste, but for us it was just the beginning of what we would call the smart water grid—something that is intelligent, two-way, and provides two simple value propositions: visibility and control,” he says.
The company created WeatherTRAK ET plus for residential use in response to the need to curb water waste in the outdoor space.
“It calculates how much you irrigate based on highest-resolution weather data that we send to the controller,” he says. The second component was gathering the data onsite and transferring it wirelessly to a dashboard, giving customers the ability to monitor what’s happening in real time so they can respond accordingly.
“This process—similar to smart grids in general AMI or AMR systems—is surprising in what we didn’t know once we start looking at where the real waste issues are through the process of real-time visibility,” says Spain.
HydroPoint Data System’s smart irrigation controller is often coupled with a high-resolution weather analytic solution, which calculates about eight million data points a day to calculate evapotranspiration data down to 1 square kilometer, Spain says.
“If you don’t know what the weather is, you don’t know what the proper water function should be,” says Spain.
Spain points out that water possesses a number of “interesting” components.
“It is an essential component for industrial production and everyday use,” he says. “It has an unbelievable ability to cause profound damages when it’s leaking and uncontrolled. It’s such a powerful resource, and the quicker you can respond to these leaks and breaks, the more intelligent you can be about saving money.
“There are some interesting reports coming out, like from Frost & Sullivan, which says that 20% of water users will be on some kind of smart water grid by 2020,” he continues. “They believe water utilities can save 30% on utility bills moving to smart grid technology. That’s pretty impressive, considering 60% of their costs are energy-related.”