Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

ICT that encourages people to save water

EU researchers have developed ICT-enabled systems that encourage people and organisations to reduce and optimise their use of water.
ICT that encourages people to save water
Water is a valuable resource but we do not treat it as such. Our infrastructures, business models and behaviour reflect this disconnect; it is estimated up to 40 % of Europe’s cleaned water is wasted. ICT-enabled water systems can do much to change this scenario say researchers from the EU-funded WATERNOMICS (ICT for Water Resource Management) project.

‘We wanted to investigate how ICT can be used to increase people’s awareness of how they use water,’ says Edward Curry, project coordinator and informatics lecturer at the National University in Ireland Galway (NUIG). ‘The hope was that ICT can change behaviour and optimise the use of water.’

The team developed a methodology providing a systematic way of putting together ICT-enabled water management systems. It used new Internet of Things sensors and water meters to provide new water data services for leak and fault detection as well as ways of engaging end-users. Crafted together in the Waternomics information platform, it can be integrated into existing systems or used in new ones.

Putting the platform to the test in homes, an airport and education buildings produced interesting results.

Big savings

At Milan’s Linate Airport, the WATERNOMICS platform was used for three months following a nine-month control period. ‘We found significant water-saving opportunities, in one building it was 27 000 M3, the equivalent of EUR 37 400 in terms of the cost of buying and pumping the water,’ says Dr Curry. ‘This is a combination of identifying the leaks and increasing awareness of usage.’ Airport managers SEA have kept the installation and are considering installing another at nearby Malpensa.

Ten households in the Greek town of Thermi participated in the second pilot. As well as tracking their consumption, the applications allowed participants to compare it to that of their peers — this kind of social benchmarking can provide strong motivation for changing habits.

The third pilot involved installing the platform at NUIG’s engineering building and a secondary school in Galway, Ireland. Both buildings were brand new and contained state-of-the-art smart technology, but the WATERNOMICS team discovered significant water wastage costing around EUR 60 000 a year. ‘Without this, maybe nothing would have been done for years,’ says Dr Curry, ‘unless you analyse the data and bring it to the attention of someone who can fix it, nothing happens.’

Each pilot targeted two types of people, those who manage the water system and those who use it, and called for differing approaches. A large dashboard installed in the building’s foyer provided plenty of technical data for the engineering students. At the school, a more interactive and playful approach was needed.

Different motivations

Understanding people’s motivations was important. ‘In Thermi parents were interested in bills because they have to pay them, teenagers were not,’ says Dr Curry. People’s relationships with the place also count - passengers may just glance at a dashboard as they move through an airport, but management staff tend to have an intimate relationship with the building and are more interested in how it is run.

WATERNOMICS commercial partners R2M, Ultra4 and BM-Change are now considering how to use the platform in their commercial offerings, while VTECH has started a spin-off to use WATERNOMICS technologies in an Internet of Things platform. NUIG is keeping its installation as part of its overall drive for sustainability and a local council in Ireland is interested in using WATERNOMICS to manage water in municipal buildings.


WATERNOMICS, ICT-enabled water system, water savings, water management, changing behaviour
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