SAWS test program with Flume helps water users monitor usage, detect leaks

    The Flume device attaches to a customer's water meter and shows how much water is used. It can also detect leaks. (SBG photo)

    SAN ANTONIO - There is nothing more frustrating than seeing your water bill skyrocket for a few months and not have a clue as to why. That could change if a San Antonio Water System test program becomes the norm.

    Five hundred San Antonians are experimenting with Flume, a device that not only provides water usage consumption 24/7 to their smart phones but also lets them know if there is a leak in their system.

    "The reason why this is of interest to SAWS is a) we're trying to educate our customers about water use and b) it's relatively inexpensive," said Anne Hayden, the company's communications manager.

    The Flume package costs about $200. But those in SAWS' pilot program paid just $30. SAWS covered the rest.

    "Studies have shown that the more information people have on their actual water use, the less water they use," Hayden said.

    Anne Hayden, communications manager for San Antonio Water Systems. (SBG photo)

    Flume works this way: A water sensor attaches to the water meter. It provides real-time data via a bridge that connects to a user's home Wi-Fi. A smart phone mobile app lets users view water usage as it happens. It also indicates leaks.

    SAWS is watching to see if the test group uses less water than non-Flume customers.

    "The way we fund programs at SAWS is based on how much water is saved. if there is not much of a difference between those two groups, we probably won't do a long term program with it. if there is a big difference, we'll certainly consider it more likely," Hayden said.

    The test program runs through the summer when water usage spikes. If SAWS decides to move forward and discount the devices to its half million customers, coupons will be made available, although that price has not been set. But it won't be as much of a discount as the test group received.

    "People should have some skin in the game," Hayden said. "We see that people value a product more if they are paying some amount for it. But we want it to be a reasonable amount."

    The test program is another one of SAWS'' efforts to balance the cost of conservation with the cost of new water resources.

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