Aria Bendix is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, and a former editorial fellow at CityLab. Her work has appeared on Bustle and The Harvard Crimson.
This device helps users think like conservationists.
Last April, California governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order calling for the mandatory reduction of urban water usage throughout the state by 25 percent. Although officials claim that California is on target to exceed its long-term goal in February, this month marked the second in a row in which California residents failed to conserve the mandatory amount of water. With drought conditions expected to sustain, they’ll have to prioritize water conservation far into the foreseeable future.
While plenty of conservationists and local news outlets have offered tips and tricks to help residents along in this process, determining how much water to conserve each day isn’t all that simple. There are services online that offer rough estimates, and a set of general guidelines from the EPA, but few ways to calculate water expenditure in real-time.
Enter Droppler, a new device from Nascent Objects that tracks water usage throughout the day. The device was born out of a collaboration between Nascent Objects and the University of British Columbia's Behavioural Sustainability Lab, which discovered that water consumption could be reduced by over 30 percent if people understood how much water they were using moment-to-moment.
With the help of audio recognition algorithms, Droppler determines water usage based on the sound of running water nearby. (For now, Droppler’s software can only detect water from kitchen and bathroom sinks, but the company has plans to tweak the technology to recognize showers and baths, as well.) Users start by plugging in information about their water fixtures and intended budget on the Droppler app, which recommends budgets for different locations. To begin tracking their progress, they can then place the device alongside the fixture.
Each day, an LED strip on the front of the device lights up in full, then decreases as the device detects water use. To find out just how much water they’ve used, users need only log on to the app to monitor expenditure. The app also supplies users with a daily report, while the device alerts them with a blinking light when they are nearing their max water budget.
Perhaps the most obvious criticism of a device like Droppler is that it has to be moved from room to room in order to record different fixtures. Droppler also lacks the accuracy of a standard water meter, since it does not rely on physical measurements. Still, it can be difficult to determine water usage by scanning a monthly water bill, which typically reports usage in centum cubic feet (CCF).
“Droppler is about improving awareness of your water use habits at the tap, rather than measuring water used throughout your entire home,” the device’s Indiegogo campaign reads. “The study shows that active monitoring and reminders of that monitoring yield meaningful conservation results.”
While only time will tell if visual cues are the secret to water conservation, Droppler’s services are a good place to start.
Water monitor, $100 pre-order at Indiegogo.