Are you up for a challenge? I have disclosed in this graph my own household’s water use between June 2006 and December 2014, as reported on my water bills. Without any more information about my household’s characteristics (except that it is residential, on a single 5/8″ meter, and using drinking water and wastewater service from one utility), this is the extent of knowledge that my utility has about my household. Yet, my water use data – which are present in the utility’s billing records – reveal much about my household. My challenge to you is to look at this graph and identify as many interesting characteristics about my household as you can. Think about it, too, from the perspective of how the utility should interact with my household. Here are a few questions to consider to get you started:
- How does my household water use compare to that of other residential customers at this utility? What does that hint about my household’s characteristics?
- What do the peaks and valleys in my water use reveal about my household’s water use habits?
- Are there any significant changes to my household’s “typical” water use? What could have caused them?
- Did my household’s water use change as a result of the utility’s changing practices or prices? What may have influenced this?
- How should the utility interact with my household when it needs to encourage water use conservation?
- What kinds of changes to the utility’s rate structure would affect our household’s water use (and bill) and what kinds would not?
Here is a little more context about the utility. The utility serves over 260,000 people in an urban city in North Carolina. The utility raised rates every year (usually in July), but the rates are relatively low compared to others in the state. During a severe drought between October 2007 and summer 2008, the utility implemented mandatory restrictions and bans on outdoor water use and educated their customers about water use conservation.
If you decide to take this challenge, please feel free to share with us your thoughts, observations, guesses and questions in the Comments below, in a private email to me, or just take notes. If you would like a hint and a sneak peak, consider reading “A Guide to Customer Water-Use Indicators for Conservation and Financial Planning” (free AWWA guidance document).
I reveal answers in the next blog post and discuss how this applies to utility management.