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Dubuque 2.0: IBM kicks off water conservation pilot in Iowa town

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IBM and the City of Dubuque, Iowa are launching a four-month study to better understand water consumption and conservation by the city and its residents.

IBM and the City of Dubuque, Iowa on Monday announced the launch of a four-month study to better understand water consumption and conservation in the area.

Officially called the "Smarter Sustainable Dubuque Water Pilot Study," the project begins with the installation of smart water meters throughout the city of 57,000 people.

Then, data will be collected from September through December of this year, then analyzed, with the hope that it might reveal the city's and residents' water usage patterns.

The first step to intelligence is knowing what you're working with, and with the help of 300 volunteers, the project is likewise an attempt to see if usage information prompts changes in behavior.

The project is part of the city's "Dubuque 2.0" sustainability initiative.

"What our volunteer households are accomplishing is the first step to understanding waste and ultimately the conservation of valuable resources to sustain life quality for generations to come," Dubuque mayor Roy Buol said in a statement. "We are grateful for their leadership."

To date, Dubuque has already implemented a city-wide water meter upgrade project, working with local manufacturer A.Y. McDonald to install a device called an Unmeasured Flow Reducer, or UFR, which helps with accuracy during low-flow water use.

IBM's system will be integrated with this, adding near-real-time data (the system will monitor consumption every 15 minutes) as well as a front-facing, in-the-cloud portal through which city officials can see aggregate water consumption (including potential leaks) and energy management data.

Just over 300 homes in the city are a part of the pilot.

The city's interest: reducing water usage reduces water bills, energy bills and chlorine bills. That's good news for both city coffers and the environment.

IBM's interest: income from its cloud-based services and insight from all the data it collects from cities around the country.

"Cities gather massive amounts of useful data every day that can improve the living conditions for citizens while increasing the efficiencies of its infrastructure," IBM Research vice president Robert Morris said in a statement. "The challenge is in accessing that data, integrating it and making sense of it."

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure