augmented reality

July 2018: It’s More Than Just An App

Bringing the watershed to your local tabletop
There’s a ton of stories to cover this month, but the one that really (shamelessly) caught our attention is the augmented reality app WWF released called Free Rivers. Free Rivers brings a watershed to your closest flattest surface and takes viewers through water’s journey – evaporation, flooding, the building and removal of dams, even a river-rafting mini-game. This experience is truly something special – give it a go!

Educators, parents, citizens take note
This app is representative of the type of services that not only educates viewers but also leads to meaningful behavior change. The WWF has provided an environment where anyone can explore ecosystem roles and consequences. It’s engaging, it’s personalized, you can almost touch it!

Put it in their hands
What WWF has created is similar to the type of engaging experience delivered at Dropcountr. We haven’t built out an augmented reality experience (yet! Imagine the opportunities!), but we’ve started building the digital bridge that connects utilities with their customers in a way that is instructive, educational and supportive.

The Dropcountr team had way too much fun bringing Free Rivers to the office. In our spare time we also serve hundreds of thousands of utility customers with our mobile and desktop apps. To request a product demonstration, reach out to us at team@dropcountr.com

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Plug Pulled on Program Paying Farmers to Conserve CO River Water (5 minute read)
The pilot program (we wrote about in September 2017) began paying ranchers and farmers in 2015 to fallow fields and let water run down the river system toward Lake Powell. That program is being put on hold.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s legacy of water (7 minute read)
Governor Hickenlooper started as the Mayor of Denver before moving to the Governor’s office.  In January he’ll leave 15 years of service making Colorado water a core policy issue. The Journal takes a look at Hick’s legacy.

The $3 Billion Plan To Turn Hoover Dam Into a Giant Battery (9-minute read)
This takes the cake for most ambitious plan of the month. LADWP is proposing pumping CO River water back upstream and behind Hoover Dam– with solar and wind turbine generated power – effectively turning the legendary dam into a giant renewable battery. 

What’s happening at Dropcountr
The summer heat can’t slow this team down! Dropcountr presented at the CalWEP-hosted “peer-to-peer” learning session in San Francisco late last month before running off to Vegas for the AWWA Annual Conference. Dropcountr was a featured partner in this month’s AWE newsletter and our very own Austin Water received platinum certification on the G480 standard, nicely done!!

Also, Florida 🌴☀💦 Pompano Beach we are thrilled thrilled thrilled to partner with you!

Talk to everyone soon, enjoy what remains of summer!
Team Dropcountr

Dropcountr Helps Diverse Communities Reach More Customers – AWE Newsletter

To communicate effectively, water utilities must adapt messaging and materials to the unique needs of their customers. There is already a great deal of marketing advice aimed at increasing customer engagement–from split testing emails to conducting focus groups, but for many communities, that means thinking about how to communicate with an increasingly diverse customer base in their native language, or language of choice.

See the article here: Dropcountr Helps Diverse Communities Reach More Customers

What Is a Water Utility in a Digital World? – WaterFM

One of the top priorities for a utility is its customers. Improving overall customer experience involves both transparent engagement and the delivery of cost-efficient, reliable services. Sharing data and data insights via machine learning with customers could help to build trust even if the utilities share information not favorable to utility operations, such as outages or water quality issues.

Read the article here: What Is a Water Utility in a Digital World?

Communicating with the Digital Customer: Denver Water’s Experience

Leaks happen. Water utility staff know this best. An unexpected, possibly expensive and definitely time-consuming incident that takes time, money and resources. Technologies such as AMI are helping utilities and customers avoid long term damaging costs.

Similarly, regulatory changes happen. Water quality issues happen. Media firestorms happen. Water utility staff also know this best. They have to spend unbudgeted time, money and mental resources communicating with ratepayers, their elected officials, regulatory organizations and the media to address unforeseen events. In fact, Water Resources Research found that the more a utility communicates with its ratepayers, the more the ratepayers agree with political leaders and professional water managers. This finding was corroborated by last year’s J.D. Power Water Utility Satisfaction Survey and should probably be noted by utilities considering usage restrictions or rate increases.

Denver Water recently presented a 5-year perspective on their experience evolving ratepayer engagement programs at the AWWA Sustainable Water Management Conference. Their goal was to measure the conservation cost-effectiveness ($/ac-ft) of and customer response to different communication strategies. Denver Water’s experience, and condensed presentation below, can help inform your decisions regarding digital communication. The presentation can be found at the end of this post.

Rewind it five years: 2013
In 2013 Denver Water’s conservation team began a monthly targeted paper letter campaign to 4,000 customers that used more than 25 gallons per square outdoor foot in 2012. Recipients were given an efficiency target (12 GPSF for pervious area) in the context of their usage. Some lessons were learned, largely around tone and content:

  • Customers were confused about usage reports based on previous year
  • Wording was harsh (25 opted out)
  • Average savings was 2.8% compared to control group
  • Cost / ac-ft: $396
  • Ac-ft Saved: 51

Efficiency Letters: 2014-2016
The following year Denver Water expanded the scope of their targeted paper messaging campaigns to 13,000 customers and started to include social norming features. These reports lasted two years and were based on layouts seen on energy bills and included more generalized language around efficiency recommendations and a “customers like you” graph that grouped customers based on their indoor usage and outdoor characteristics.  Key lessons from these campaigns included:

  • Cost / ac-ft $824
  • Ac-ft saved: 69
  • Fewer customer calls compared to the initial outreach in 2013 (softening the language worked)
  • Customer survey of inefficient users:
    – Willing to reduce water
    – They want more information than what the bill provides

In 2016 Denver Water increased the number of Efficiency Letter recipients to 20,000 and realized 112 ac-ft savings at $793/ac-ft.

It’s a mobile-first world: 2017
In 2017 Denver Water explored other channels for engaging customers and piloted a Dropcountr customer portal with the aforementioned 20,000 Efficiency Letter recipients. This “opt-in” digital approach provided Denver Water customers with all the features from earlier reports and more. It also provided the utility with advanced usage analytics and customer-supplied information such as household occupancy, types of appliances, presence of a pool or a lawn etc. The information gathered can be shared with other departments within the utility such as systems or demand planning, providing value beyond the initial conservation program.  

Easily scalable
One of  Denver Water’s key insights was that supporting 2,000 accounts with Dropcountr’s technology is just as easy as supporting 200,000 accounts. While the cost of paper outreach increases with every unit shipped, software platforms like Dropcountr can cost-efficiently and consistently support all customers at a fraction of the price.

More effective
Paper reports were effective in supporting Denver Water’s conservation programs but their impact is short-lived – water awareness lasts only from opening the envelope to recycling the paper report. Digital portals offer customers a round-the-clock relevancy – usage data, messages, price tiers and even rebates that can be updated on a moments notice without the cost or time-delay of paper reports.

This, coupled with the likelihood that customers are more likely to engage with their phones than with paper mail, led to a more effective (ac-ft conserved) and cost-efficient ($/ac-ft) campaign. In the end, 152 ac-ft were saved at a $450/ac-ft price point – well below the savings realized in the paper report trials.

Adoption signals
The Dropcountr customer portal, HOME, was initially offered to 10,721 of the 20,000 aforementioned Denver Water Customers. Several email campaigns were sent to these customers explaining the program and encouraging registration (opt-in approach).  Within four weeks 19% of those recipients had registered for HOME; by fifteen weeks 29% registered. This level of rapid adoption was a clear signal that customers desired and expected this channel of utility engagement – a promising alternative to expensive traditional (paper) channels.

Perspective helps
Five years of messaging trials gave Denver Water good perspective on what works, the associated costs and customer participation. Denver Water conducted a detailed review of several engagement options and concluded that the utility needs a digital customer relations platform that offers an online portal / app like Dropcountr that communicates efficient use. And it makes sense – digital communication is effective because it is:

  • cost-effective
  • immediate
  • trackable
  • easily adaptable to customer feedback
  • highly-scalable
  • preferred by the customer
  • provides analytical feedback

Digital engagement and customer portals should be an option on the table if you’re looking to build goodwill with ratepayers ahead of these uncomfortable conversations or simply looking for a more cost-efficient means of communication.

Denver Water’s Presentation (wait a moment for the deck to load)

30025943_040218150503_TUE08-01KrcmarikPresentation

May 2018: What is Human-Centric Design?

It sounds like a Skynet design
Human-centric design (HCD) is basically a philosophy regarding the creation of websites, forms and services that seeks to simplify and improve constituent interactions with government. Adopted from the private sector, HCD ideally removes a bunch of the friction (time, money) long associated with government practice.

Ok, but who’s using it
There’s momentum growing in every division of government: from foster care approval systems to food assistance programs to parole-assistance networks – even utilities! And it makes sense, the HCD approach gets down to the nitty-gritty deeply-held needs and motivations people have that explain why they behave they way they do. Understand people’s behavior, guide them in the desired direction, achieve desired (or at least improved) result – voilá!

An example please
Water utilities looking to achieve water savings will sometimes exploit our desire to conform by contextualizing one neighbor’s usage against the other – also called social-norming. This approach is effective, doesn’t abuse price as a means and is often cheaper than the traditional technique. #soundslikeabetterway

“Human-centric design is poised to become increasingly foundational to the efforts of government at the state and local levels in years to come.”
What is Human-Centric Design? Govtech.com

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Dropcountr takes a human-centric approach to helping water utilities with customer engagement, leak detection and water efficiency. Jump here to learn how social-norming (among other features) helped Denver Water save 152AF in just six months


➣Denver Water tests the digital waters (3-minute read)
Denver Water recently presented a 5-year perspective on their experience improving existing programs through targeted communication at the AWWA Sustainable Water Management Conference. Perhaps their experience can help inform your decisions regarding digital communication.

➣Building homes to demonstrate technology (2 minute read)
The Madison Water Utility is building several highly water-efficient homes for tours and to educate the public about potential water conservation technologies they can install in their homes. This “show-don’t-tell” style of information campaign is designed to inspire local homeowners and is a fun, informative change in communication strategy.

➣Surprising things can happen when it feels as if the world is about to end (25 minute read)
Save this one for the weekend or after work. This long-form article about the Cape Town crisis is masterfully authored and photographed.


What’s happening at Dropcountr
Montana, y’all. We just broke ground in Montana and could not be more excited to work with the City of Bozeman. Dropcountr will support the Neptune AMI-metered connections with custom daily budgets and an evolving set of tools, features and alerts, starting this year.

Also, our team presented at Texas Water ‘18 in San Antonio during Fiesta (¡viva!) and are gearing up for ACE 2018 in Las Vegas.

Have a great May, see you next month
Team Dropcountr

Lake Arrowhead Community Services District Case Study

Lake Arrowhead is a mountain community with roughly 8,000 connections and a destination for outdoor summer activities in the San Bernardino mountains, directly north / east of Greater Los Angeles. In 2015 the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District sought a customer portal to support the significant number of second-home property owners and seasonal visitors with leak alerts, usage analytics and conservation guidance.

Print the case study here

lascd case study

 

awe state scorecard

April 2018: Report Card Season

The year is 2012
The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and Environmental Law Institute (ELI) recently released a 5-year update of their state-by-state scorecard regarding laws and policies that support water conservation and efficiency. The score – based on a battery of survey responses – touched upon topics such as water loss control, appliances and fixtures standards, conservation and drought planning, funding, assistance, billing and more.

So, how’d we do?
Well, the U.S. averaged a “C”, the same grade awarded in 2012. Six states slipped on their 2012 score, but an impressive 26 improved their grade and more states achieved an “A” or “B” in 2017 than in 2012. So the net is: good growth, opportunity to improve. See the report here.

The year is 2022
Can you guess which states improved on their 2012 score? Why? Were they victims of drought, politically innovative, financially motivated, technically pioneering or something else? Now consider the 2022 scorecard – will the changes be reactionary or anticipatory?

“Water conservation and efficiency ensure the health and vibrancy of communities and businesses nationwide.”


➣When is drought not a drought? (8 minute read)
Last month the Colorado River Research Group published a fantastic piece regarding the words we use to describe our changing physical environment. In place of drought, the group suggests an alternative that describes a period of transition to an increasingly water scarce environment.

➣What will you name your drain? (1 minute read)
Virginia Beach is using an innovative mapping program to support its “Adopt-A-Drain” program, allowing residents to pick a storm drain (there are 40,000 choices), name it and keep an eye on it in the event of issues. The open dialogue, attentive watch and occasional civic clearing is expected to save the city $35,000 / year. Way to go Virginia Beach!

➣ I understand where you’re coming from (3 minute read)
A recent study published in the latest issue of Water Resources Research found that the more a utility communicates with its ratepayers, the more the ratepayers agree with political leaders and professional water managers. This complements ongoing efforts from AWE and others to educate customers regarding the [true] value of water and should be noted among staff considering restrictions or rate increases.


What’s happening at Dropcountr

What a month!

  • We saw a bunch of familiar faces at the Sustainable Water Management Conference in Seattle. Austin Krcmarik did an excellent job presenting several of Denver Water’s community-based social marketing conservation programsyou can find his deck (and a look at the DW-Dropcountr program) here.
  • Dropcountr co-signed AWE’s letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in support of WaterSense and are happy to report the program is continued in this year’s budget.
  • MassDEP continued their support for our program with Dedham Westwood Water District in Massachusetts and we opened up a 15-month Spring Pilot Program to utilities that partner with us before June 1. Drop us a line or reply to this email for more details.

Sending our best,
Team Dropcountr

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Dedham residents tracking water usage with Dropcountr – Wicked Local

In addition to tracking water usage, customers can use the app to compare their usage to similar households, connect with utility alerts and rebates, and receive tailored water-saving tips.

“Dropcountr makes it very easy for me to save water,” said Bobby Chapman of Dedham, “I get detailed information about how much water my family is using and how I compare to others in my area delivered directly to my inbox along with water-saving tips, which helps me do my part to protect the Charles.”

See the article here: Dedham residents tracking water usage with Dropcountr

Communicating the Costs of Water Modernization – Financing Sustainable Water

The Flint water crisis brought long overdue attention to the state of U.S. water infrastructure. Repair and development costs 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.

Read the article here: Communicating the Costs of Water Modernization

saratoga springs

March ’18: Metering the “Secondary”

Kudos to Matt Weiser on this Water Deeply story

A tale of two connections

Despite their environment, at the edge of the dry west, 61% of Utah’s suppliers provide customers with “secondary” water systems: an additional connection that gives homeowners access to untreated and unmetered water, sold at a flat rate, to irrigate lawns, gardens, and landscaping.

All that available and unknown secondary water has made Utah one of the thirstiest states in the union, at an average of 167 gallons per capita daily, according to a dated 2010 survey.

A step forward

In February, Republican state senator Jacob Anderegg presented Senate Bill 204, which would require metering (not billing yet) of all secondary water connections by 2028. He knew the associated price tag would not be popular, but “as a conservative we’ve got to conserve. And the truth is we’re not.”

Data curtails usage

Saratoga Springs, a city in Senator Anderegg’s district, deployed secondary meters in 2015. Despite the 4,000 meter $3.5M pricetag (paid for by bonds) the city saw an immediate 30-50% reduction in secondary water use and saved the city money. Data wins again!

“Without the data, what we don’t measure we never improve” – Senator Anderegg

Curious how Dropcountr can help activate your data? Drop us a line


Customer satisfaction never meant so much
Staff are being asked to do more with less and utilities are expected to deliver services beyond the meter, but the rising tide of customer expectations shouldn’t be viewed as a burden. Data and a perspective on the evolving customer playbook.

Penny for your…bill?
A Florida woman recently exercised her displeasure with management by paying a $493 bill in pennies. McCool was responsible for a bill almost 10x her average due to a leak “neither a plumber or leak detector could find.” So she took her peaceful protest to social media and…carry the 9, drop the three… a lot of pennies. #customersatisfaction #couldabeenavoided

Investing in the customer’s water IQ
San Antonio may be the world’s most forward-thinking city when it comes to water. But it learned to conserve a precious resource the hard way – and from an unlikely teacher. Story from The Guardian.


What’s happening at Dropcountr
Headed to the Sustainable Water Management Conference later this month? Robb will be in Seattle for the event and keen to get together for a coffee or lunch. Drop him a line robb@dropcountr.com anytime to coordinate.

Until next month,
Team Dropcountr

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