Saved nearly 40 million gallons of water by implementing a monitoring system that measures hourly water usage and allows customers and contractors to track their water usage.
Utilizes data to identify residents who could benefit from the City’s home energy efficiency program. This data helps facilitate easier communication between city officials and residents, both can reach out to another to share information.
Residents help city staff develop and evaluate budget proposals using an outcomes-based rubric. The city solicits participation through the city’s budget website, where residents can read documents, watch videos, and participate in surveys and online forums.
Sharing Data to Save Water
The City’s Landscape Water Budget and Leak Alerts programs showcase how combining the right technology platforms with open data practices and performance analytics can deliver real results.
Prior to launching the Landscape Water Budget program, Fort Collins conducted commercial irrigation audits. Staff from Fort Collins Utilities, which manages the City’s water supply, would assess properties and make irrigation improvement suggestions. But many customers would request an assessment each year without having implemented the City’s previous water-saving advice. City staff often would find themselves stuck between the customer (who owns or rents the land) and a landscaping contractor in charge of irrigation.
So the City overhauled its approach. Using hourly water usage data drawn from its new Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system, Fort Collins Utilities began providing suggested water-use budgets to both customers and contractors during initial on-site consultations. Customers can access their water accounts detailing suggested and actual usage 24/7 via the MyWater portal, developed in partnership with the WaterSmart data analytics platform.
The overarching idea was to give end users useful insights into how they can conserve water and empower them to make adjustments without city involvement. “Fundamentally, we are better off when we can build conversations with customers and the broader community that are based in transparency, visibility, and engagement,” says John Phelan, energy services senior manager at Fort Collins Utilities.
Since launching in 2018, the Landscape Budget program has reduced water use by an estimated 73 million gallons. This represents about 1 percent of the City’s total annual treated water use. Over the same period, the number of participants — many are homeowners’ associations and customers with landscapes that cover millions of square feet — has doubled from 40 to 80.
The MyWater portal also provides individual household customers with general water use information and comparisons to similar homes. The AMI system can automatically flag continuous water use, so Fort Collins Utilities decided to use this feature to enhance its system for alerting customers about suspected leaks. On the MyWater dashboard, a household can sign up for the Leak Alerts program and select a preferred communication method. The system will send text message or email notifications if continuous water use is sensed for a 24-hour period. Previously, the City would call a customer or mail a letter if it suspected a leak.
Since 2017, the City has sent more than 13,300 Leak Alert notifications. Because it can now reach more customers faster and resolve leaks more quickly, the results are dramatic: an increase in estimated annual water savings from two million gallons prior to 2017 to 40 million gallons in recent years.
Data from both the Leak Alerts and Landscape Water Budget programs are tracked by Fort Collins’ customized database known as “Bertha,” which supports the City’s big utilities goals: high-quality service and efficient resource management. (Fort Collins Utilities also manages stormwater, wastewater, and electricity.) Staff designed the database system to collect and organize data from all utility services across the City, helping staff address a range of challenges.
For example, city officials have analyzed utility data to identify residential properties that could benefit from the City’s home energy efficiency retrofit program, and then engaged those customers. And during the pandemic, staff pulled data from Bertha to identify residents who had fallen behind on payments and then reached out to them to share information about utilities payment assistance resources.