San Jose Unveils Software for Residents to Track Water Usage

San Jose residents will have a new tool at their fingertips to find out how much water they're using as part of the city's continued effort against the drought.

The city has partnered with WaterSmart Software to allow customers to log in through the company's mobile app or online customer portal with information on their water usage.

WaterSmart sends customers reports that compare their household's water usage with similar-sized homes served by the utility and their 2013 rates.

The software also allows residents to receive water-saving tips based on their usage, water news from the city and leak notifications through their mobile devices or by email.

"This is a tool that can enable us to save water, to save money and most importantly put our city and our valley on more sustainable footing for decades to come," Mayor Sam Liccardo said during a news conference Wednesday morning.

The WaterSmart technology tells customers their water use in gallons that are easier to comprehend than "mystery units" typically found on bills, WaterSmart CEO Robin Gilthrope said.

About 21,000 customers served by the San Jose Municipal Water System will be able to use the WaterSmart technology starting this fall, according to Jeff Provenzano, deputy director of the city's environmental services department.

The water system is in the process of replacing all of its
residential water meters to allow for faster meter readings and that opens the utility to more technology including WaterSmart, Provenzano said.

The WaterSmart tools will also help city utility employees track the Municipal Water System's consumption rates and check if it's in line with the state's conservation goals.

The San Jose Municipal Water System has called on residents to reduce their water usage by 30 percent in comparison to 2013, a goal that was also set by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a statewide reduction of 25
percent in water use.

The city is paying $68,000 to cover the costs for the WaterSmart program and the Santa Clara Valley Water District is paying for the other half of the bill.

The city would've had to pay double the amount for the technology without help from the water district, Provenzano said.

A grant through the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency will pay for 3,000 of the 21,000 homes served by the Municipal Water System, city officials said.

The cost of the WaterSmart technology is about one-eighth of more than $2,000 per acre-foot needed to import water from the Central Valley and other areas, Liccardo said.

WaterSmart, based in San Francisco, was first used in 2011 and is being used in 40 communities in seven states, with 30 of those communities in California, Gilthrope said.

Residents in Morgan Hill, Mountain View and Menlo Park are using the technology, but San Jose will be WaterSmart's largest partner in the Bay Area, Gilthrope said.

Within months of using the technology, customers saw their water efficiency improve by 5 percent, according to Gilthrope.

"Combining the water smart solution with new technology and increased conservation will keep this region on track to achieve the targets that have been set by the state," said Nicole Sandkulla, CEO of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.

"Knowing the extent of water use is half the battle and we are enlisting more water warriors by empowering them with the data they need to make water smart decisions," Vice Mayor Rose Herrera said.

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