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High Frequency Data Informs Water Conservation Strategies

Advances in sensor technology and data storage are dramatically changing how scientists understand human behavior. And residential water use is a behavior that effects citizens across the West. 

Utah State University Professor of Environmental Engineering Jeff Horsburgh uses high frequency data loggers to better understand peak usage and what habits use the most water in our homes.

“If we are the state of Utah and we are planning water projects for the future and we are planning on our population growing, doubling some say in the next 50 years – are all of those people going to use water equally?" he said. "Do we just double the amount of water we are using now or if different groups of people use water differently, are we going to have different water use?”

Currently 90% of residential water use is measured monthly by local utilities with analog meters. The sensors Dr. Horsburgh uses can measure with such high frequency that uses such as the flush of a toilet or individual showers can be distinguished. 

Hopefully this data can help utilities develop conservation strategies to increase water use efficiency and plan for peak loads. Data loggers have already been installed in all individual-use dorms on the Utah State University campus. After establishing a baseline level of water use, students will be enrolled in a campus wide competition to save water.

“We are going to have this water wars competition," Horsburgh said. "We are really interested in how much their behavior changes based on informational campaigns - giving them information about how they can save water, and then how long does that behavior last, and how durable are those changes in behavior and conservation that we achieve.”

Differences in water use between old versus new buildings, male versus female dorms, and other demographic information will be used to help Utah State and residents across Utah plan for a more water-efficient future.