The City of Dubuque, Iowa, says a pilot study it conducted which leverages cloud computing technology and analytics, resulted in a 6.6% reduction in water consumption and a much improved ability to detect leaks.

Dubuque implemented a Smarter Sustainable Water Pilot Study in partnership with IBM in 2010. Under the pilot 151 homes were outfitted with smart meters and their consumption habits were compared against a similar-sized control group.

The smart meter system monitored water consumption every 15 minutes and a continuous analysis was performed against historical information, demographics and household characteristics on an IBM research cloud. Using the data, the system was able to detect potential leaks and anomalies, and trigger notifications.

The volunteer households were alerted about anomalies or spikes in consumption and were able to gain a better understanding of their consumption patterns and compare and contrast it against other similar households in their community. Volunteer households were also able to access an online portal where they could compare their water usage anonymously against similar sized homes in the community. Of those using the service, 48% felt it had helped them conserve water.

Other results included:

  • Based on the amount of water saved during the pilot, it was estimated 3,409 gallons of water could be saved per household annually if rolled out to the wider community.
  • Pilot participants reported leaks at a rate of 8%, compared to normal city-wide rates of 0.98%. This meant leaks were being detected faster and more accurately.
  • 61% of households reported that during the pilot they made changes to their water equipment or the way they used water (such as shorter showers, or purchasing water-efficient appliances).

Dubuque is now looking to expand the pilot and move into such areas as transportation, electricity and natural gas.