Smart water-use feedback : options, preferences, impacts, and implications for implementation

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2016
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Smart water metering (SW metering) is enabling the water industry to enter into the digital age and to embrace new levels of water usage awareness, data analysis and communication. While implementations have been advancing internationally, less progress has been made in extending the benefits of this data and information to access by householders, including in Australia. This thesis investigates the opportunity for more detailed information and feedback on household water consumption by: (i) conceptualising the different options for the presentation of detailed feedback enabled via SW metering (ii) uncovering householder interests and preferences; (iii) measuring the various impacts of detailed feedback on householders and their consumption of water; and (iv) developing an implementation framework. These issues are investigated in relation to furthering implementations and the contribution of SW metering towards more sustainable urban water management (SUWM). This empirical research was conducted via two trials in New South Wales, Australia to address the urgent need for improved knowledge and experiences of the issues relating to the provision of detailed water-use feedback via SW metering. The ‘Home Water Update’ (HWU) study provided detailed household water- and end-use feedback via paper-based reports. The ‘My Home Our Water’ (MHOW) study provided consumption feedback according to time of use in near real-time via an online portal. A mixed methods approach was used to analyse the trials using smart water meter data, surveys and interviews. This research shows that providing more detailed water-use feedback through SW metering generates significant householder interest and produces measurable savings (up to 8% in the HWU (paper) study and 4.2% over the longer term in the MHOW (online) study). Moreover, the wide range of options for detailed feedback enabled by SW metering identified in the research—together with the variety found in householder preferences for and responses to detailed feedback—suggests that greater customisation would further elevate the value of feedback to customers and improve engagement. The implementation framework developed further provides a detailed overview of the key elements for decision-making for detailed water-use feedback programs, categorised as strategic, practical and evaluative considerations. Overall, the research findings cover a broad range of aspects critical to the design of future trials and large-scale roll-outs of SW metering and detailed feedback and the promotion of use that foster more SUWM. For wider industry adoption of detailed water-use feedback programs enabled via SW metering, the importance of the following is underlined (i) conducting quality, robust research and its implications for project resources; (ii) facilitating knowledge sharing in order to further the water industry’s understanding and experience regarding methods and approaches to feedback provision; (iii) building knowledge on how to address heterogeneity among customers is recommended in order to customise approaches to feedback provision (e.g. via a large scale preferences survey and subsequent experimentation with greater levels of customisation, particularly with robust scaled research trials); and (iv) developing the business case for detailed water-use feedback provision by fully documenting methods and making these available for wider evaluation and industry recommendations and improvements. Further developments in this direction, using the implementation framework, will enable the water industry to work towards large-scale implementation of detailed feedback provision which take more full advantage of the customised options made possible via SW metering and the digital age.
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