California’s water agencies have partnered with a data infrastructure firm to provide a real-time overview of water usage across the state. This is facilitated by a bespoke platform displaying common metrics to measure water usage by demographics, forecast consumption levels and evaluate projects like a $500 million scheme encouraging people to plant a more water-efficient type of grass. The project has enhanced inter-agency collaboration and slashed the time required for data analysis, saving over $5m in capital costs. The initiative was launched in response to Governor Jerry Brown’s 2015 demand that the state deliver a 25% reduction in water usage due to the ongoing drought.
Results & Impact
The platform has centralized the databases of 410 different retailers into a single unified platform, covering 21m out of 35m Californians. Its incorporation of demand forecasting tools has saved over $5m in capital expenditure. Other analytics software has enabled officials to easily evaluate a $500million scheme encouraging people to plant a more water-efficient type of grass. The project was launched in a bid to meet Governor Jerry Brown’s 2015 call for California to reduce water usage by 25% due to the ongoing drought. The state has suffered two periods of severe drought in recent years; 2007-2009 and 2012-2016
14 water agencies and city utility groups, 410 water retailers, ARGO, DataKind, Enigma, UCLA, ACWA, Claremont graduate university, SCWC, California Institute of Technology, California Urban Water Conservation Council, UCI Wex Center, University of California Davis, US Department of the Interior, Royal Institute of State and Local Government, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Seed, Microsoft, OmniEarth, UC Davis Center for Water Efficiency
The California Data Collaborative (CaDC) has replaced California’s previous 410 water databases with a unified platform. ARGO, a data infrastructure development start-up, runs the system and engages technology firms to create new analysis tools. CaDC provides water managers with real time data and detailed breakdowns of usage patterns from across the state. Existing tools provide forecasts of expected consumption during periods of low water availability and evaluate the impact of demand curbing initiatives
Cost & Value
Running since January 2016
Standardising the information contained across 410 different water databases was a highly complex process. There was a lack of consistent categories across the databases, with different retailers classifying similar water users as businesses, residential and other types of consumers. The other main problem was cultural. While there was strong support within some agencies and retailers for the data driven approach, the technology also met with scepticism by some within the industry
Cities in Oregon and Canada have shown interest in replicating the project. CaDC also hopes to further expand across California. The tools and software are all open source, enabling interested parties to utilise the collaborative’s work
Californian water agencies have partnered with a data infrastructure firm to create an integrated management platform, providing a real-time overview of water usage across the state.
Launched in 2016, California Data Collaborative (CaDC) facilitates real time data collection and improves collaboration across the state’s participating water agencies. Managers are able to monitor conservation strategies and access data from across California, enabling a unified approach to water reduction to take place. ARGO manages the platform on behalf of CaDC members and partners with technology firms to develop bespoke analytics tools to improve the network’s management facilities.
The partnership developed in response to the prolonged drought California has experienced. In 2014 Governor Jerry Brown called for 25% savings in the state’s water consumption. However, the fragmented nature of California’s water supply network and limited data collection and analysis facilities posed formidable difficulties. Over 410 retailers used different measurement systems and user categories in their databases. Efficiency standards also varied, rendering the state’s water network unable to deliver the necessary reductions.
“There were a lot of understandable frustrations with [the governor’s demand] because it was allocated on the current residential per capita gallons per day,” said Patrick Atwater, founder of ARGO and Manager of the CaDC. “It didn’t really reflect if you had been doing water efficiency actions for the last two decades.” As a result, a consensus developed that a more integrated approach to water management was necessary.
The platform drives efficiency savings through its provision of real-time usage data. Enigma, a technology development company, were engaged to provide a real-time data collection system, complementing ARGO’s digital platform. As a result, information collection and storage has shifted from a manual to a cloud based process. Data is displayed through an “efficiency explorer”, which shows regional usage patterns and targets based on a common matrix. Information is also searchable by time period and demographics. This has increased the pace of usage analysis from weeks to hours, enabling agencies to focus more heavily on reducing water consumption and improving delivery mechanisms.
Centralised data collection and standardised usage statistics enable managers to easily evaluate efficiency initiatives. Prior to the CaDC platform, consumer level data was not sufficiently uniform or detailed to evaluate water saving initiatives across different agencies. The platform’s information and regression analysis tools have enabled a co-ordinated turf removal program to be trialled by three different utilities and evaluated using metrics applicable across all CaDC bodies.
Back in 2009, the turf removal program “was still a high six figures low million dollar kind of pilot project,” said Atwater. “And then over 2014, 2015, 2016 it scaled up to the largest outdoor efficiency water usage program in American and maybe world history. It was the better part of half a billion dollars. When you look at the water savings, there’s tonnes of variation. What we have done enables us to revisit this question on a more thorough, ongoing basis.”
The CaDC platform offers significant improvements for agencies’ financial planning. Water shortages have had a major impact on utilities’ budgets. The current drought is thought to have cost water companies more than $675m. A rate comparison tool, developed in conjunction with DataKind, performs linear regression analysis to calculate the chance of demand for water exceeding supply over a specified time period and the volume of additional water expected to be used. Utilities are therefore better able to prepare for such events and avoid employing external groups to do such analysis, further reducing costs.
The integrated database has enhanced collaboration with academic institutions. Agencies regularly participate in academic research programs with the potential to improve water management techniques. Information can now be shared much more easily through the CaDC platform, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of research partnerships and helping to facilitate further innovation.
The CaDC project has helped to deliver on objectives set out by the Western Governors Association and the California Council on Science and Technology. Its integrated water usage data covers 21m out of 35m Californians and has made possible a detailed evaluation of the state’s $500m turf removal program, while additional technological developments are ongoing. It has also saved water agencies $5m in capital spending. The project was officially honoured by the White House in March 2016 at the White House Water Summit.
(Picture: Flickr/Photo Tower)