Sensor technology aids sustainable water use in public housing

Posted 31 May 2018

Leaking water tapWestern Australian public housing facilities could save millions of litres of water a year thanks to an innovative management company’s new water saving program utilising sensor technology for data production.
 
Providing maintenance works and services to approximately 22,000 social housing properties owned by THA, Spotless Government Housing WA Contract Manager Lucy Cordone said the company recognised water saving was an area in which they could provide long-term improvements.
 
Cordone said tackling water use issues in Western Australia’s public housing required turning first to contributing factors.
 
“We wanted to do something to create real value in the way we were delivering our services to THA. In initial conversations, we understood that water consumption was a challenge for them and we wanted to help them,” Cordone said.
 
“First we needed to really understand what the problem was, and the specific contributing factors in order to come up with a robust, flexible solution.”
 
In late 2016 and early 2017, Spotless implemented their innovative IoT sensor solution – small mobile sensors that capture water consumption data remotely – in a sample of housing residencies to understand the water usage trends.
 
The baseline water consumption in the sample residencies highlighted a general trend of water use three times higher than the industry and state daily benchmark.
 
“The real-time data provided us with detailed insights into accurate water use – including over-use. We were able to pinpoint residencies with high water-usage, and look at when spikes were occurring and what was causing them,” Cordone said.
 
“We developed our maintenance program around the data to be more effective, using the data to prioritise maintenance and servicing jobs, and also inform future maintenance schedules. The data helped us to schedule in preventative maintenance jobs so that we were fixing things before they broke.”
 
Following the three-month trial, water usage had reduced by up to 30%, which represents an annual saving of approximately $558 per household. Applied to the entire housing portfolio managed by Spotless, the approach demonstrated substantial cost savings.
 
While some of the high water-use pointed to wear and tear, the data also highlighted water-use behaviours that were contributing to excess water-use too.
 
“Some of the high water-use trends were due to mechanical issues like leaks, but we found in some cases it was due to taps not being turned off properly or over-use due to things like residents filling up inflatable pools,” Cordone said.
 
“We were able to understand what were the water-use behaviours that were contributing to excess water consumption. This gave THA the opportunity to engage with their tenants and encourage good water-use practices.” 

Cordone said the trial has also been a great opportunity to work with clients closely in order to build understanding, improvement and benefits for end-users.
 
“We really enjoy when we can make a difference in the way we deliver a service that’s going to have a long-term impact, it’s very satisfying,” she said.
 
“And it’s good for relationship building – between us and our client, between the client and their consumers – it’s a win for all.”
 
Related article:
Industry trials automated data analysis software to help save water