Cities of big data: Dubuque creating a model for city water, power programs

The city gets the public on board with programs using smart meters and analytics to improve water and power use.

Second of two parts. Read part one.

Dubuque is a living laboratory for sustainability, piloting a variety of ways to use smart meters, analytics and citizen participation to develop efficient water and electric use programs that other cities can follow.

The mid-size city situated along the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa has worked with IBM over the past four years on water conservation and electricity usage pilots.

By the numbers

Dubuque Water Sustainability Study

Results of a study monitoring household water consumption via a Web portal that gleaned data from smart meters. 

  • 77 percent said they improved their water usage and understanding.  
  • 61 percent took some specific action to conserve.
  • 50 percent said they were going to make additional changes in appliances or how they used water.
  • 6.6 percent overall decrease in water use.
  • 8-fold increase in leak detection and response (the biggest cause of water systems tends to be leaks – facets dripping, water running).

Using a cloud-based framework developed by IBM Research — the IBM SmartCloud — the city deployed a smart-meter solution that combined real-time monitoring, analytics and alerts to provide citizens with a means to intelligently manage their water consumption. The city later added electricity usage to the pilot program. Other smarter sustainable projects include health and wellness, recycling (smarter discards) and travel. 

“Dubuque’s goal across all projects is to create a model that can be replicated for medium-sized cities with populations of 50,000 to 200,000, where the bulk of U.S. cities are today,” said Chris Kohlmann, information services manager for Dubuque, population 58,155. The aim was to deploy smart water meters and electric meters to show how citizens could help make their city sustainable. Active community engagement is a key component to any sustainability project. 

“It is one thing to collect data from smart meters and instrumented products, but citizens have to be engaged,” Kohlmann said. Show them what they need to look for with the data and then give them tools to use the data to save money or improve their water or electric resources, she said.

Through a Web-based portal, pilot participants accessed real-time data about their water and electricity usage that helped them manage their household consumption. The water project started in 2010 with 400 volunteers and lasted for 12 months. Six hundred total households participated. Of that number, 300 were active portal users, 200 were occasional participants and 100 never accessed the portal, Kohlmann said. The next phase offered the portal to nearly 4,000 participants, including small businesses, and about 1,000 people signed up.

Overall, 77 percent of the participants said they improved their water usage and understanding by taking part in the study, and 61 percent took specific action to conserve water. Kohlmann participated in the pilot herself and through the portal discovered leaks — dripping faucets, a toilet running, an unknown outdoor faucet. With the data she quantified how much water was being wasted: 4 gallons per hour. Fortunately, most household leaks can be fixed easily.

Now, Dubuque officials are undergoing a project with the city’s water meter vendor, Neptune Technologies, to leverage smart meters for 23,000 households in the city. The city is not abandoning the IBM portal, but just starting to engage additional vendors to help determine how residents and city officials can monitor water consumption. The Neptune solution does not have the breadth of analytic capabilities found in IBM tools, Kohlmann said, noting that IBM Cognos and Websense were used with the project.

“We still continue our relationship with IBM as we work on new portals and projects,” she said. “I think the important thing [to understand about] analytics is it is not necessarily one size fits all, and one solution even. There can be multiple best fits for users, depending on the needs.”

In spring 2011, Dubuque started a pilot project for electricity with Alliant Energy, the local electric provider. The project involved putting smart electric meters in 1,000 volunteer households — the data was available to the city and IBM for analysis. Whereas water meters were read every 15 minutes; information on electric usage was available hourly.

The portal allowed people to not only see electric readings but to do comparative data, giving people an idea of how they stack up against other people who were demographically the same in terms of the size of households, square footage of house, and so on. In addition to showing usage and comparative data, the interactive portal allowed participants to set goals and receive alerts if they exceeded a threshold. Households using the solution reduced their electricity usage by as much as 11 percent, according to Dubuque officials.

Unleashing data through the cloud and advanced analytics will allow Dubuque and other cities to cut across siloes of data, Kohlmann said. “If I have an inefficient appliance that is using a lot of water, it is probably also using a lot of electricity.” Or if data shows someone is not using water or electricity as much as they should, there may be social or public health issues that need to be addressed. So it is using data at a much higher scale and taking more actionable steps when needed, Kohlmann said.

PREVIOUSLY: Seattle gets more from less power.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.