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Down the drain? New report from Oracle examines attitudes about water conservation

Posting in Energy

Did you know that 36 U.S. states expect water shortages by 2013? A new report about water conservation, sponsored by Oracle, looks at how smart grid policies could help manage our most precious natural resource.

Just returned from 10 days on the island of Ambergris Caye, a scuba diving mecca off the coast of Belize, where I added another 14 dives to my log book. So it seemed particularly appropriate to pick up a report released this morning by Oracle about the need for a "smart grid" focused on better managing our most precious natural resource, H20.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 36 states could face a water shortage by 2013, which isn't really a surprise considering that the average American uses 100 gallons of water a day at home. (Now I'm feeling really guilty about the laundry I just did!) The bigger problem, however, is that somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent of Americans have water leaks in their house, and this is where the new Oracle report steps in. (Here's the source link for these and other stats.)

The report, called Testing the Water, discusses a survey conducted with two very different sets of constituents/interested parties: 1,200 water consumers and 300 water utility managers in the United States and Canada.

According to the findings, more than three-quarters of consumers are concerned about water conservation. Almost 70 percent think they could find ways to reduce their water consumption and about the same number believed having access to additional usage data would help with this goal.

Approximately 68 percent of the water utility managers who were surveyed likewise believe smart meters or other smart grid technologies could play a role in promoting water conservation, but only one-third of those survey were actually looking into installing these technologies. The two most important benefits of smart meter technologies, according to the managers, are leak detection tools and usage monitoring applications.

So why aren't more utilities jumping on smart meter technology?

According to the Oracle survey results, capital costs and operating costs are the top two concerns, followed by the reliability of current technologies.

Considering the water that COULD be saved by putting in place data-driven conservation plans -- Oracle figures this could be an estimated 1.3 trillion gallons of water in the United States and Canada alone -- inaction may end up cost water utilities more money in the long run.

In any event, you can better that smart grid applications targeting water conservation will steal a lot of headlines this year -- especially as shortages consume state legislatures' agendas.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure