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WaterGenius promises a free tool to help California fight the drought

Lincoln Spector | June 2, 2015
This online resource recommends ways you can reduce your household water consumption, calculates how much money you'll save by following its guidance.

Can California survive the drought? One Oakland-based company thinks it has part of the solution. BKi's free WaterGenius website--expected to open next week--could help homeowners cut down on water consumption.

The state desperately needs water conservation. California is in the fourth year of a record draught, and things are getting scary. While much of Texas and Oklahoma are being inundated with rain, we Californians suspect that our beautiful state will dry up entirely and blow away.

Redwood trees, amongst the largest and oldest living things on the planet, are dying. Farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are voluntarily giving up a quarter of their water allocations. And according to an Association of California Water Agencies survey, "the vast majority of Californians--some 90 percent--are willing to make significant changes to conserve water..."

Into this worsening catastrophe, BKi--a for-profit consulting and software company specializing in environmental and resource issues--brings us WaterGenius. If it works as advertised, this free online service will help California homeowners figure out how best to change their homes to cut water use, and calculate how much money they can save by making these changes.

If all goes as planned, the WaterGenius website will be available on June 1. Android and iOS apps will come later. I was not able to test the site before writing this article, but BKi President and CEO Brian Gitt walked me through an online demonstration. While this gave me a flavor of what the service will be like, it was nothing like the hands-on testing needed for a real review.

Shop for plants, showerheads, gardeners, plumbers...

The first thing the WaterGenius website asks you for is your city. It needs that information so it can recommend plumbers, gardeners, contractors, and other local professionals. But your location also tells WaterGenius what you're paying for a gallon of water, so it can calculate what you'll save if you make recommended changes. The differences can be severe. According to Gitt, a gallon of water in Palo Alto costs seven times what it does in Gilroy.

Once the site knows where you are, you'll get a list of seven items that you might want to replace with something more efficient, including showerheads, kitchen and bathroom faucets, dishwashers, and toilets. You can check and uncheck these options, to concentrate on what you want or to see what will provide the biggest savings.

For most homes, that would be the landscape. WaterGenius tells us that "Up to 60% of a typical California home's water is used to irrigate the lawn." The site displays various water-saving garden options, and it can provide you with local gardeners to do the work for you. (You can do the work yourself, of course, if you've got the time and a green thumb.)


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