The Costs Of Water Modernization

The Flint water crisis brought long overdue attention to the state of U.S. water infrastructure. Repair and development costs, north of a trillion dollars by some measures, are jaw-dropping. And water management is being scrutinized — from the top-down — to figure out how these costs are going to be paid for.

Fortunately, the costs of water modernization can be quantified, forecasted, and accounted for, years in advance. Unfortunately, communicating price and service changes to the consumer is tough. How loudly will the utility customers howl at inevitable rate increases? How much time will this cost customer service representatives who field calls of confusion and frustration? Will bill delinquency increase, especially for lower-income utility customers who don’t have the ability to monitor their usage and control their costs?

An example: At the height of last year’s California drought, the customers of a prominent southern California water district replaced their board because of a drought rate hike. This rate increase was necessary to meet fixed operational costs. The local community did not agree, was not informed, and did not have a good relationship with the utility or simply did not understand the complexity of water delivery — so they voted out their board.

To implement much-needed water infrastructure repair and development, water utilities must find effective ways to communicate with their customers. Utilities that invest in their customer relationships today will benefit today, tomorrow, and every day afterwards. Forming these new bonds will require a) improved communication, b) meeting customer expectations for mobile device access, and c) empowering customers with information in support of shared water-use efficiency goals and utility operational efficiency.

J.D. Power Senior Director Andrew Heath recently published a Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Survey, where he found “significant need for major investment in water infrastructure nationwide … and in order for the water utilities to be able to make that investment, getting the backing of their customers is going to be key.”

How are utilities accounting for an increasingly digital customer base? Accenture recently found that digitally-engaged utility customers have higher satisfaction with their utility, greater program participation, increased information sharing, and more trust in their service providers. It’s also easier (and cheaper) to send emails or automate leak alerts digitally than by paper and post.

How are utilities accounting for a customer base that increasingly speaks a language other than English at home? Do they feel heard or supported? As a software provider for utilities, my team and I have been reflecting on this question a great deal lately. We recently evaluated U.S. Census Bureau language data specific to our service areas and found that half of the cities we partner with have greater than 30 percent of their population who speak a language other than English at home. In at least a quarter of the cities we partner with, greater than 50 percent of the population identify as Hispanic. One step we have taken as a company to help address this challenge was to build DropCountr HOME.es — the first Spanish-friendly customer portal for water utilities. HOME.es is the first dedicated customer portal built natively for iOS and Android that connects English-speaking utilities and staff with their Spanish-speaking communities. In addition to detailed information about household water usage, Dropcountr also provides a channel for communication between utilities and their customers: alerts, rebates, billing information, and FAQs.

I’m proud of the steps we have taken to build tools that make water management and saving accessible to more people. At the same time, we will need many more innovations in the water space to deliver real water savings and infrastructure improvement for our communities.

Robb

Dropcountr Raises $600k Seed Round, Launches Spanish Version of Product

Dropcountr, a startup offering water tracking and reducing software to utilities, has raised $600,000 in venture capital funding and launched a Spanish-language version.

The new money is the first fundraising round for the company, with the Urban Innovation Fund acting as a leader alongside Zipdragon Ventures and other micro venture capitalists and angel investors. For the four-year-old company, which appeared on last year’s Gov Tech 100 list, the seed round comes a little later than for other startups in and around Silicon Valley. Where many companies pursue funding quickly to grow aggressively, Dropcountr’s strategy has been one of organic growth using its early profits.

Read more at GovTech.com

Dropcountr comes to Dedham Westwood Water District

With matters of the home becoming more and more entwined with technology, residents can add another application to those they use to monitor their utilities.

The Dedham-Westwood Water District recently launched an app and website through Dropcountr, a software designed to help users track their water use. Once residents have downloaded the free app and signed up, they can track their usage, compare their usage to similar households, and set conservation goals.

Read more at Wicked Local

How Monte Vista Water District is helping customers monitor water use

MONTCLAIR >> Monte Vista Water District would like to help its customers use water more efficiently and to do that it is offering a free app — in both English and Spanish — that makes it easier for residents to track their usage.

Dropcountr let’s people know how much water they have used based on the most recent meter readings. The data is the same information customers would find on their bills with one exception, said Justin Scott-Coe, water resources and community affairs manager for the Monte Vista Water District.

“The app allows them to put it into context,” Scott-Coe said.

Read more at The Daily Bulletin