Too-Big (Water Usage Monitoring Tool)

Capstone Project Proposal #1

I.     Proposed Topic

Too-Big (Water Usage Monitoring Tool)

II.     Introduction

The water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), and the #8 global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring within 10 years) as announced by the World Economic Forum in January 2015 (“Water Facts: Water,” n.d.). Furthermore, there is the continued threat of the effects of Climate Change on the quantity of our water resource, thus, the need to intensify water conservation activities.

Digos Water District (DWD) is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) located in Digos City, Davao del Sur mandated to deliver potable and safe drinking water to its franchise area. It has three categories for their concessionaires namely (1) Residential, or those which used water for their daily domestic needs; (2) Commercial, or those which directly or indirectly use water in the promotion of their businesses; and (3) Government, or those used in the premises of government entities.

Usage patterns of its concessionaires belonging to the above-stated categories was not studied and monitored excepting for those circumstances which is too obvious to be ignored such as an abrupt increase in a particular concessionaire’s consumption due to leakage in the pipelines. Nevertheless, most of the time, this would go unnoticed.

Water conservation is not just a sole responsibility of water districts but a partnership with the whole community. Though the water usage of most of its concessionaires is minimal as based on the research/case study conducted by the proponent, the collective volume they have consumed would result to impending danger to the already depleting water supply if this would be uncontrolled.

Elementary Science would teach us that water goes through a cycle, hence, a notion that it would not be exhausted – this is true, however, with the pollution and over-usage it had experienced for a long time, the future generation would be left with no potable water to drink.

To aid the water district, its concessionaires should be made aware of the water crisis looming ahead.

III.     Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this project is to develop a water usage monitoring tool particularly for Digos Water District. The objectives are as follows:

  1. To promote water conservation;
  2. To aid Digos Water District in its campaign against water pilferage;
  3. To aid in the improvement of the efficiency of the water meters and the quality of Digos Water District workforce; and
  4. To give concessionaires an overview of their water consumption pattern.

IV.     Specific Research Issues/Questions

This project arises from the following issues:

  1. Is water conservation practiced within the franchise area of the water district?
  2. If water conservation is being practiced, is it the primary concern of the concessionaires or otherwise?
  3. Does the water district implement water conservation on its end?

These issues will be discussed below.

  1. Is water conservation practiced within the franchise area of the water district?

There was no study conducted that will show water conservation practices in the area. Billing was done every month but this does not reflect usage pattern of the concessionaires. The proponent had conducted a survey although involving only a small portion of the population. The result is quite promising as it has been established that from the samples taken, there seems to be water conservation that is being practiced since most of the concessionaires’ usage are minimal at an average.

  1. If water conservation is being practiced, is it the primary concern of the concessionaires or otherwise?

As stated in the immediately preceding issue, water conservation is being practiced by the respondents based on the study conducted by the proponent. The next issue would be raised such that if the respondents had shown a minimal usage, does their reason for the said nominal usage falls under the either of the following:

  1. Water conservation practice especially for the future generation;
  2. To avert payment of huge billing;
  3. Water is not sufficient in their area thus their consumption is thwarted; or
  4. They have other sources of water aside from DWD water.

Based on the survey conducted, only item (d) can be answered – most of the respondents have other water source; 27 out of 65 respondents on zone A (Poblacion area), and 55 out of 65 respondents in zone B (riparian area). Unfortunately, the other factors (a to c) have no data as these were not included in the survey for it was thought out only later after the survey was conducted.

  1. Does the water district implement water conservation on its end?

The water district has implemented various water conservation systems but the most documented was leakage repairs as this data can be immediately generated from the Integrated Utility Management System (IUMS) of the water district. IUMS is the central system that caters billing, collection and servicing aspects of DWD. Based on the data obtained from the IUMS, for the period covered January 1, 2015 to October 31, 2015, out of 2,196 service request for leakage repairs, 2,171 has been completely repaired or 98.86% thereof. The system however lacks data on the actual volume losses sustained because of leaking pipes nor data whether the leaks were discovered immediately after the pipes broke down or thereafter and for how long already. Nevertheless, it suffices that the district has implemented water conservation practices based on the data above and other undocumented schemes which includes controlled flushing of water in pump stations, and other fittings on a scheduled basis or as the need arises without sacrificing water quality.

V.     Proposed Methodology

  1. An area-wide survey will be conducted to specifically determine the following:
    • Household size;
    • Usage of DWD water (drinking only, washing of dishes only, washing of clothes only, all activities in the household);
    • Other source of water (hand pump, electric pump, bottled/mineral water, other source);
    • Their usual monthly billing to determine if their pegged amount jived with that of their actual billing.
  2. A database of monthly billing volume/consumption will be put into place. This will be used in charting the consumption for a prescribed period.
  3. A system will be developed (Too-big) that will graphically show the volume usage of an account for a period (starting January and ending December of every year) on the face of the bill. The data will be obtained from the database stated in #2.
  4. An annual evaluation will be made based on the database in #2 to review if there is a change or none in the usage patterns of the concessionaires.
  5. In relation to #4, should the changes documented be considerately abrupt (increase or decrease in consumption), an investigation will be made underway to determine the factors affective the abrupt increase or decrease.

VI.     List of Readings

Water Conservation and Sustainability

Conservation is equated with “doing the right thing”; technologies are intended to enable users to behave “in a more responsible manner” and to “promote more sustainable behaviors”. However, using terms like “sustainability” in an uncritical manner elides serious and difficult questions about human relationships with nature, and implies consensus where none exists (Hirsch & Anderson, 2010). According to the study of Hirsch & Anderson (2010), while respondents in Central New Mexico were willing to discuss water conservation, the matter on sustainability remains an elusive term which depends greatly on the status of the respondents. On the said study, policy-making bodies are finding it difficult to draft reforms geared towards water conservation through allocation as they were oftentimes faced with opposition coming from the environmental activists who don’t trust their government.

As regards water conservation per se, Hirsch & Anderson (2010) found substantial conservation activity even in the absence of financial incentives. This is a significant finding for proponents of smart-meters and real-time pricing schemes, who often place cost savings at the center of efforts to reduce domestic consumption. Citing Strengers and Dillahunt et al in their paper, it is noteworthy that money is not always the primary motivator for conservation practices (but through) individual and institutional practices motivated by values like responsibility and citizenship and tempered by peer pressure and social norms.

In concluding their study, Hirsch & Anderson (2010) cautioned technology designers not to think of conservation as an intrinsic good, or that cost savings and consumption are inextricably linked. Rather, consumption activities are shaped by a variety of concerns including notions of identity, value, and social norms, and that these in turn influence the perception, adoption, use, and interpretation of conservation monitoring and other sustainability-oriented technologies. Furthermore, there is an implication that sustainability is not a one-size fits-all endeavor and suggest that further research be not overly concerned with generalizable findings and “best known practices.” While these considerations certainly have their place, we should make room to acknowledge, indeed, to celebrate diversity and site specificity.

Factors Affecting Behavioral Change

As stated in the previous section, specificity is preferred when there is a need for a behavioral change especially as regards water conservation. According to the study cited by Paay, Kjeldskov, Skov, Pathmanathan, & Pearce (2013), people are keen to act in a sustainable way and yet they find it difficult to know exactly what to do. For this matter, systems should be designed to change attitudes or behavior through persuasion and social influence, but not through coercion.

The said study is comprehensive in the sense that it spans two utility sources (water and power) in two different countries (Melbourne, Australia in November 2010 and Aalborg, Denmark in April 2011). Although the study comprises only ten (10) participants on each utility, the selection of these participants was meticulous such that for water conservation study, they were recruited through a gardening course in University of Melbourne, Australia and that they had to meet the basic requirements to be selected for participation.

The primary goal of the study was whether or not there is a possibility of changing behavior by persuasive technological tools such as SMS messaging, Smartphone apps and PC-based internet. Since this proposal is about water conservation, the topic on power conservation study will be dispensed as much as it does not relate to water conservation and behavioral change although the two studies are intertwined to each other. The process of the study includes using Water Advisor app on their Smartphones or on PC at least once a day for a period of three weeks. In the said app, they will be given weather update and whether they need to water their plants that day. They’re also given information regarding the Community and Experts when it comes to gardening in their locality.

In conclusion of the study, Paay et al., (2013) offer a set of eight key concepts, empirically proven to persuade behavior change to promote pro-environmental behavior. These are:

  1. Self-Comparison – give access to user’s own situation; in the case at hand, this is achieved by providing personal information about the user’s own consumption.
  2. Triggering Messages – push messages push the user to be focused on their environmental behavior and can help persuade the user to act toward a proposed direction.
  3. Mobile Platform – Smartphones are currently the most desired platform since this is much handier and easier as compared to a PC platform especially in the context of gardening which is an outdoor activity.
  4. Understandable Messages – use smileys and a combination of positive and negative reinforcement in messages; participants said that if they only received messages that praised them, they would be likely to stop trying to improve.
  5. Tailored Information – tailored information is more persuasive than general information from sources such as brochures, or television campaigns.
  6. Community Information – use community information for comparison; despite the fact that it was not possible to compare their consumption on a household-by-household level, participants said that summary information about other residents in the community was a highly motivating factor for them.
  7. Expert’s Advice – use expert’s advice for comparison; it is a good persuader of user behavior, especially when it is linked to the user’s own situation.
  8. Behavior Change Over Time – mobile persuasive technology needs to be used over time to change people’s behavior.

VII.     Expected Significance of the Study

Several studies about changing people’s water-use in private households have been conducted. Arroyo et al. (2005) present numerous persuasive techniques to increase awareness of water conservation in the domain of the sink, and created the WaterBot: a system that motivates people to turn off the tap when not using the water. Kappel et al. (2009) developed UpStream and Kuznetov et al. (2010) developed Show-Me which are both physical installations in the shower, which give information about their current water usage, with the goal of reducing their water usage. These studies showed that the developed technologies did change people’s use of water (Pathmanathan, Pearce, Kjeldskov, & Smith, 2011). Pathmanathan et al., (2011) likewise developed the Smart Garden Watering Advisor which was previously discussed in the study of Paay et al., (2013).

Despite the advancement in the technology as regards promoting water conservation, the concessionaires in Digos Water District had illustrated their heavy reliance in water bills handed to them by the water meter readers every month. Thus, the easiest way to promote water conservation in the vicinity is by introduction of a water usage monitoring tool on the face of the water bill.

In the end, it is both Digos Water District (DWD) and the concessionaires that can benefit from this proposal. For the part of the DWD, it can immediately address its concern over water pilferage and strengthen its campaign for water conservation, and for the concessionaires, they may be aware of any deviation from their usual consumption.

Furthermore, through this project, this may become a resource for future study about the consumption pattern in relation to the culture of the concessionaires without relying so much on surveys and interviews, although such cannot be easily detached from the whole process as there is a need to corroborate the reason for reduced water consumption (if any) whether it is due to financial or environmental matter.

VIII.     References

Hirsch, T., & Anderson, K. (2010). Cross Currents: Water Scarcity and Sustainable CHI. In CHI ’10 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2843–2852). New York, NY, USA: ACM. http://doi.org/10.1145/1753846.1753871

Paay, J., Kjeldskov, J., Skov, M., Pathmanathan, R., & Pearce, J. (2013). Promoting Pro-environmental Behaviour: A Tale of Two Systems. In Proceedings of the 25th Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference: Augmentation, Application, Innovation, Collaboration (pp. 235–244). New York, NY, USA: ACM. http://doi.org/10.1145/2541016.2541045

Pathmanathan, R., Pearce, J., Kjeldskov, J., & Smith, W. (2011). Using Mobile Phones for Promoting Water Conservation. In Proceedings of the 23rd Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference (pp. 243–252). New York, NY, USA: ACM. http://doi.org/10.1145/2071536.2071575

Water Facts: Water. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2015, from http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/

IX.     GANTT Chart

1 Too-Big

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