Imagine a situation where you set a goal to run faster. The first thing you would do is determine how far and how fast: perhaps a mile in under 10 minutes. Next, you would figure out how fast you can run right now. Then, you would track your time with every run to see the progress you were making towards your goal. We instinctively do this because measurement is necessary to effectively reach our goals. This is why measurement is used in our daily lives, science, marketing, and anything else related to change. H2OSAV, a UF/IFAS Extension Program, has been applying that thinking to water conservation. The program uses actual, metered water data to help utilities, Extension agents, the Florida public, and other stakeholders in their efforts to reduce water consumption.
H2OSAV stands for Water Savings, Analytics, and Verification. It is a collaborative effort, born from the UF/IFAS Program for Resource Efficient Communities and the need to quantify impact. To address that need, H2OSAV uses regularly updated data to understand water use in the past, address issues in the present, and share insights and trends for the future. H2OSAV is led by Dr. Nicholas Taylor, IFAS State Specialized Extension Agent, who explains that “our goal is to measurably reduce water use to minimize the effect on Florida’s natural resources. Providing tools and sharing our insights quickly and easily facilitates conservation efforts.”
This Extension program is a powerhouse of partnerships. Utilities across Florida, along with their Water Management Districts, work with H2OSAV. The H2OSAV team screens, cleanses, and enriches the data provided by these partners. The team blends these utility records with several open data sources including County Property Appraisals, Florida Department of Revenue, and the U.S. Census. This has led to over 83 million rows of data, and that number is continuously growing. Using this data has many benefits over traditional modeling systems. Other systems may predict or model water consumption without using the metered water data measured by the utilities. As Dr. Taylor says, “when you’re not using actual data, you miss the changes in consumption that are due to behavior.”
H2OSAV uses this enriched data to provide insights about water consumption, development, and the effectiveness of individual conservation programs. These insights are shared directly with the utilities and to a broader audience through publications. When a partner has a more specific question or need, the team provides custom analyses, interactive tools, and targeting assistance. The program works as a two-way street, as well. Custom requests from users lead to advancements in how insights are generated and sometimes even lead to the creation of entirely new tools.
Mike Sweeney, Deputy Executive Director for Toho Water Authority, said that H2OSAV “has provided a way to quickly prioritize high water demand areas for further education and communication.” He appreciates how the program helps their utility “comparatively determine the effectiveness of our various conservation efforts.” The program has a wide impact by working directly with partners and, as an Extension program, by sharing their water consumption insights. Keep an eye out on EDIS, IFAS Blogs, and other outlets to learn more about what our H2OSAV team has to share about Florida water.