It’s Not Just Electricity, Water Needs To Get Smart Too


The talk surrounding a smart grid that regulates power usage is getting louder. But its not just electricity that could use a smartening up, says Greentech Media, who took a look at a company dedicated to making water usage more intelligent.

There’s even an energy conservation play. Roughly 19 per cent of the energy in California is consumed in processing and delivering water. Therefore, if you can reduce water consumption, you can also reduce greenhouse gases. An Obama-friendly employment angle? Yes. 50,000 landscaping companies employ 10.5 million people. It was part of the testimony Spain gave to Congress earlier this month.

HydroPoint’s system essentially replaces traditional timers with its WeatherTrak, a controller that regulates watering through environmental conditions. Customers fill out a questionnaire about their grounds – slope, sprinkler placement, sun exposure, type of landscaping, etc. HydroPoint then devises a watering strategy and places one or more WeatherTrak controllers on the grounds. HydroPoint gathers weather data from satellites and automatically feeds it to the controllers, which adjust watering patterns to suit evaporation rates and the weather.

The WeatherTrak thus acts almost like a smart meter, but instead of curbing demand up or down with impending brown-outs or escalating power prices, it changes watering pattern to suit the conditions in the sky and the extrapolated evaporation rate.

The cost of the hardware and services varies by site, but payoff comes in around 20 to 36 months, he said.  Irrigation efficiency systems can likely become widespread without ongoing subsidies. Temporary tax cuts and rebates might be enough to get it moving, he said.

In 2009, customers using HydroPoint’s system will save 11.3 billion gallons nationwide and 45 million kilowatt hours of energy. Large users include Wal-Mart and Kohl’s.

The company is not pursuing agriculture deals. Only around 30 per cent of the crops in the U.S. are actually artificially irrigated, said Spain, so the market isn’t as large as one might think. HydroPoint also does not use soil sensors, which are used by some competitors, to gauge moisture. A site analysis combined with weather adjustments can achieve about a 95 per cent efficiency compared to a sensor system. It isn’t economically worth it to get that extra 5 per cent by fiddling with extra hardware in the field.