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A Snapshot of the 10th Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference

The AIQUEOUS Team attended the 10th Annual WaterSmart Innovations (WSI) Conference earlier this month. For those of you not familiar with WSI, it is one of the only national conferences dedicated exclusively to urban water-efficiency. The conference attracts a diverse group of water-efficiency professionals and features innovative approaches and technologies transforming the industry. This was the third year in a row AIQUEOUS has attended the conference, but it was the first year AIQUEOUS showcased its software and engineering services at the Expo Hall. We made our presence even bigger at this year’s conference with two presentations, Making Waves in the Utility Sector: Cloud-based Solutions and Regulated Water Conservation Planning: Comparing Formal & Informal Processes, and two posters, A Smart Approach to Smart Controllers and Scaling Water Conservation Through Workflow Automation.

What keeps AIQUEOUS coming back to WSI is the opportunity it offers to engage with old and new colleagues, share insights, and explore water efficiency from multiple perspectives. Here are snippets of what our team learned and enjoyed the most at this year’s conference:


The presentation I enjoyed the most at WSI was M&V Guidelines, Water Retrofits, & Next Generation PPPs for Public Sector by Jorge Figueroa from Western Resource Advocates. He presented three measure and verification (M&V) drafts that he had developed:

  • Outdoor irrigation

  • Turf conversion

  • Cooling tower retrofits

The purpose of a M&V plan is to define the approach used to quantify the savings associated with a conservation measure. At the end of the talk, I was able to take a closer look at them and see how they were structured and what criteria was necessary to complete them. Jorge informed me that the online version will be up soon so if I have to prepare M&V documents in the future, I can follow these examples and will have a basis to work on.

In addition to presentations, the WSI conference also offered poster sessions on a variety of topics. For me, this was the best experience of the conference as it allowed me to meet a lot of people and to talk about AIQUEOUS’ smart irrigation controller pilot project. Some water utilities have already implemented smart irrigation controller programs and were curious on our methodology for calculating the associated savings while others didn’t really know much about it and wanted a more holistic description of the project. This was a valuable experience because it taught me how to adapt my speech depending on the audience and to know how much (or little) details to give to maintain their interest.


Of all the presentations I got to see at the WSI Conference, I would say my favorite was Karen Guz’s on SAWS’ rainwater barrels coupon program, given at AWE’s annual meeting. Her engaging presentation was sprinkled with humorous anecdotes along with lots of valuable insight on the design and implementation of the SAWS program. Although initial results from the coupon program didn’t demonstrate the depth of savings SAWS had hoped to achieve, Karen provided a number of lessons SAWS’ staff learned along the way and different approaches they will take in the next installment of their rain barrel program. Overall, Karen highlighted public education as the key to securing greater reductions in outdoor water use. Although SAWS had hoped to incorporate an educational component into the program, the initial response was so big that they were not able to combine the two. In the future, SAWS plans to reduce the number of available coupons so that they can offer participants an opportunity to learn more about rain barrels and efficient landscaping/irrigation practices when they come to pick up their rain barrel.


One thing that really struck me this year was the degree to which software platforms and data analytics became part of the story at Water Smart Innovations. Presentations on submetering, peak demand reduction through smart irrigation, satellite / GIS analytics, and Internet of Things were indicators of the engagement of the water conservation industry in data and analytics. I anticipate that future conferences will focus more on the application of these data tools more than the novelty of them.

One early morning session stood out for me. It focused on a pilot whole-building modeling approach for calculating water savings in the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program (ASHRAE 191P). The standard will soon be out again for public review, and the discussion highlighted how energy and water interact (e.g., lighting efficiency improvements also yield water savings in buildings with water-cooled chillers). But, there is still a need to integrate multiple ASHRAE standards to capture those interactions, including ASHRAE 90.1 (for building energy efficiency) and ASHRAE 189.1 (for high performance green buildings).

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