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Implementing smart water meters to effect behavioural change

A WA research project is delivering encouraging results on the power of smart water meters to drive effective behavioural change.

The Water Corporation has teamed with the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, drawing upon the latter’s research in Karratha and Kalgoorlie.

The eight-month trial, Waterwise Towns Kalgoorlie, is giving 1000 households regular updates on their usage, showing how it compares to other similar properties and offering water saving tips.

Drawing on research, the campaign uses algorithms to provide tailored messages around irrigation, peak use and continuous flow.

Kalgoorlie is entirely dependent upon water pumped from Perth, 600km away, for its water supply. Since the installation of smart meters in 2012, water consumption in the region has dropped 10%, thanks in large part to early leak detection.

Current research is aimed at driving behavioural change in the warmer months.

Associate Professor Rachel Cardell-Oliver, from the University of Western Australia’s School of Computer Science and Software Engineering, is a key research contributor and has been investigating the use of customer segmentation of smart water meter data.

In a recent paper she lead-authored, Cardell-Oliver highlighted how the electricity industry routinely uses customer segments, based on daily load profiles extracted from smart meter data, to design load shifting and marketing strategies.

She said the water industry could use the same techniques, using data-mining techniques to reveal unexpected or interesting patterns of consumption.

“This knowledge, in turn, can greatly enhance decision making for urban water management,” she said.

“Water literacy plays a part in the patterns we are seeing and we can use behavioural roadmaps combined with our data to tackle the assumptions people make about water resources.

“For instance, we might find that installing water-saving showerheads are not an issue in a [certain] area so the utility can tailor their community information programs to what people are concerned or care about.”