Sensors and Emerging Tech Help Drought Ravaged California

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive, or SMAP, spacecraft will provide global measurements of soil moisture. See:Watermark, January 6.

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive, or SMAP, spacecraft will provide global measurements of soil moisture. See:Watermark, January 6.

In the dark cloud of daily drought reports that reach us from California, silver linings are as rare as rain. A bit of good news is the fresh attention brought to smart water technologies that, until now, have been mostly hidden from public view.

Some are emerging and some familiar. Sensors, detectors, drones, transducer microphones, computer analytics and more are being deployed to manage and monitor water use more precisely. Importantly, they are now the subject of regular news accounts — a hopeful sign for Clarkson University’s Beacon Institute and other institutions trying to speed the pace of water innovation.

On February 20, Watermark reported on Tule sensor technology that is being used to increase water efficiency in agricultural operations. And on January 6 we reported on NASA’s SMAP satellite that will provide global measurements of soil moisture. Below is a small sampling of representative stories from recent weeks:

Four tech companies trying to fight California’s drought

USA Today, April 14, 2015:  It stands to reason that the biggest savings won’t come from a ripped up residential lawns but rather, from reduced use of water by agriculture and large industrial operations . . . Technology is poised to assist on both fronts. From nanotech to biotech, a range of companies is leveraging scientific leaps to profit from the preservation of what is inarguably the planet’s most precious resource.  Read more

Meet Eva: Shower partner, water saver

The Orange County Register, April 15, 2015:  A Santa Ana-based company is giving life to Eva, the first-of-its-kind smart shower that adjusts to its user’s every move during regular ablutions, altering the flow of water when a bather shaves, lathers up or rinses off . . . The device will work with a complementary mobile app, where a user can set time goals for how long his morning routine should take. Exceed the goal and Eva will issue a subtle warning – a soft beep or an illuminated LED flash.  Read more.

Specialised acoustic technology may help the drought-stricken state of California save millions of litres of water a year.

Engineering and Technology Magazine, April 15, 2015:  America’s one-time Golden State is in the midst of a catastrophic water crisis . . . One culprit is the underground pipe leaks. According to a 2014 analysis, the Bay Area alone loses 23 billion gallons (87 billion litres) a year from underground leaks . . . Pure Technologies, a company based in Canada, uses a UK-developed sensor-based device known as Sahara. The sensor, which is attached to the surface by an unspooling cable, is pulled along by the current in the pipe using a tiny drag chute. It contains both a microphone and camera. . . When you locate a leak acoustically, you can also see what part of the pipe it’s coming from.  Read more.

A vicious, four-year drought may be close to catching up with California’s winemakers

NBC News, April 2, 2015:  Former Mondavi winemaker Thibaut Scholasch is founder of Fruition Sciences, a firm that helps farmers take advantage of the sweet fruits produced by dry farming, using sensors, drones and data analysis to prevent stress to the plants. He said that vineyard operators need to rethink how they assess whether vines are “dry” or not . . . Fruition Science’s sensors measure real-time behavior of plants to make sure they are adapting to the amount of water instead of watering when plants “look” dry.  Read more.