People have no idea how much water they use.

Most people have no idea how much water they use during a month—in fact, research shows that Americans often use twice as much water as they think they do.

But the problem is bigger than a lack of awareness. According to a recent study, when people don’t know how much water they use, they end up using more.

Helping customers understand their water use data

The more water providers can help customers understand their water use, the more conservation they might see. Which is why utilities are investing tens of billions of dollars in AMI and technology to let customers monitor their water use in real time and see social comparisons.

But even without AMI, water providers could achieve amazing conservation results by targeting customers using monthly billing data.

Sharing customized feedback with customers about their water use has been shown to reduce water use and reinforce behavioral change. How often data is collected isn’t as important as how that data is shared.

Powerful analytics can be delivered with or without AMI

Utilities can provide powerful insights to help customers understand their water use through a variety of tools. One of the most popular approaches has been the combination of an enhanced water bill and a customer web portal. These tools provide an avenue for water providers to share information including:

  • How much water a customer is using

  • How this water use compares to an estimated efficient use

  • How this water use compares to previous periods

  • How this water use compares to similar households

  • And if the water provider has any rebates or programs that would improve this customer’s water efficiency

Smart meters, enhanced water bills, and digital solutions to provide more water use data to customers have been shown to reduce water use and reinforce behavioral change.

Can utilities do more with water use data?

As effective as enhanced water bills and user portals have been for improving water awareness and reducing water use, some customers are not getting the message. And it’s not for the reasons you might think.

As of 2015, two-thirds of U.S. Consumers used automatic payment options for things like their water bill—a number that is likely much higher today.

Autopay through services like Xpress Bill Pay or Doxo provide benefits to utilities through lower billing transaction costs and more on-time payments. But a hidden cost comes in the form of consumers no longer needing to view their water bill.

Thinking Beyond the Water Bill

Fortunately, recent advents in communication technology are making it possible for utilities to share water use data in more ways than ever before. By thinking beyond the water bill, utilities can reduce demand—and do it more cheaply than many of the social norming bill programs being pursued today.

  • Texting: Sending a text message to let customers know when their water use is above average is not only cost-effective, it’s also more likely to be seen than a water bill (90 percent of texts are opened within three minutes).

    The immediate delivery provided by text messaging also means that water providers can schedule water conservation messaging to be recieved at specific times. Want to remind customers not to water between 10 am and 6 pm? What better time to text than at 9:45 am.

Water use data can drive text messaging
  • Email: Just because your customers don’t look at a water bill, doesn’t mean they won’t open an emailed report about their water use habits. Increase open rates by making these reports beneficial to your customers through customized data, and recommendations for improving water-efficiency.

  • Postcard and Mailers: Even for customers who receive their water bill in the mail, there may be a case for sending additional water reports using postcards or a separate mailer. Based on eye tracking research from Texas Tech University, customers spend around 30 seconds looking at their water bill—and most of that time is spent looking at the actual bill summary. Sending a separate report with the primary purpose of sharing water use data may make that information more likely to be read.

Yoppify provides a platform for Utilities to communicate with customers using the right channel at the right time. Learn more about how Yoppify can help your organization effectively use water use data, social comparisons, and more.

Published On: October 1st, 2021 / Categories: Water /

Get Our Latest Resources

Case studies, sample communication outlines, and best practices—created specifically for busy public employees.

Thank you for your message. It has been sent.
There was an error trying to send your message. Please try again later.