A quick search on wikipedia yielded a definition for water use in its simplest terms: “Water use can mean the amount of water used by a household or a country, or the amount used for a given task or for the production of a given quantity of some product or crop, or the amount allocated for a particular purpose.”
As we all know a big part of what we are doing in the Integrated Sustainability Class 1 is to quantify our Water Use. As we learned from our first class with professor Rebecca Silver understanding the scale in which we consume will help us rationalize where we are in comparison with our environmental limits, so that we can avoid confronting a situation where we reach that limit.
Note that our water use goes beyond what we drink, flush, or what we use from the faucet, a lot of what we buy uses water in its production, we could call this indirect water use. Quantifying this based on our consumer habits would be a very big endeavor, but as a class we have engaged in calculating our direct water use, a good start in terms of calculating our impact. I am excited about our guest speaker Allison McCann from fivethirtyeight who will help us take this impact into the visual realm.
A product that addresses water use directly is Driblet which was developed by a team hailing from Monterrey, Mexico and came to be after they won the Silicon Valley’s AngelHack competition. Its aim is to helps households, industry and government track water use through a self-powered device that delivers data wirelessly to applications in our computers or smartphones.
This sample image from a Fast Company Co.Exist Article lets us peak into the app. The interesting thing about this article is that even though the founder created the device to quantify his daughter’s use of water during her long showers – a household concern – the device seems to be gaining interest mostly among the people paying for the water use, like Landlords and Governments. Either way, this device has the potential to have a huge impact on our water consumption. Maybe Products of Design can invest in one of these? The next year’s students would thank us!
During my research into faucet innovation I came across Pfister Innovations and was surprised to see that all they talk about on this first landing page is “Technologies that Make Life More Convenient”, there is no mention of water saving designs anywhere on this page. At first glance the focus is the aesthetic quality of the product, as well as the practicality and functionality of the product. One has to dig much deeper into the website to find their Timeline of Innovation to land on their one mention of partnering with the EPA to “reduce water consumption by 30%” through their products labeled with the WaterSense label. From a company whose whole timeline relies on their innovations I would expect more than 1 out of 31 directly referring to their efforts to reduce water consumption. I am not implying that little effort is no effort, but I believe a big part of innovating as a company is educating the consumer on their choices. In my opinion, their branding should reflect that clearly on the first landing page to make consumers aware of this effort, sparking questions in the consumer’s mind about what kinds of efforts they are doing in their everyday lives to conserve water. Maybe buying WaterSense products from Pfister is one of them.
In an environmentally conscious world there is a lot companies can do to promote better practices through their products. Water scarcity is an issue that is already affecting a large portion of California, and will probably become worse over time, calculating our water use can help us curb our impact and stay away from our environmental limits.