The companies using high tech systems to manage water use

IoT sensors and automation enable cities, utilities, and businesses to monitor water quality and use at scale.
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· 4 min read

Water is critical to the functioning of any civil society, enabling complex sewage systems to work, clothes, dishes, and bodies to be cleansed, and people, plants, and pets to stay hydrated.

As a result, we use a lot of it: According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the US uses an average of about 322 billion gallons of water per day, with the average American family using 300 gallons of water per day, according to the Water Research Foundation.

Naturally, several companies have built businesses around harnessing technology to manage this load for cities, utilities, and companies. Two such examples are Ketos and Hydropoint. The former does water-quality monitoring, and the latter helps businesses manage their water use. Each uses tech like automation and IoT to give real-time updates on key water metrics to cities, utilities, and businesses—let’s break them down.

Water watchers

In basic terms, Ketos’ pitch is this: It uses a combination of hardware and software to make sure the water that reaches homes and businesses is clean and free from harmful chemicals and contaminants.

Between 1982–2015, anywhere between 9 to 45 million Americans were drinking water from a source that was considered unsafe under the guidelines established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to a 2018 study.

“In the US, water is clear—but clear water doesn’t mean clean water or safe water,” Meena Sankaran, CEO of Ketos, told Emerging Tech Brew. “So by the time [you’ve] been impacted, it’s already six months too late. It’s the small concentration of different chemicals and toxicity that’s in the water that eventually can literally affect health.”

The company was founded in 2015 and has raised just under $30 million in venture funding since, with its most recent round coming in 2020.

Its “robotic system,” dubbed Ketos Shield, is trained to detect over “33 parameters,” including toxic or otherwise harmful chemicals in water (e.g., boron, lead, arsenic) and can notify users of their presence in real time, Sankaran said The system is installed at the water source—and so is some form of connectivity—where it then relays information about the quality and purity of the source back to its web-based platform. Customers can access the information, which also includes machine learning-based diagnostics and maintenance predictions, anywhere they have a connection.

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Sankaran told us that Ketos is working with utilities like the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which supplies water to the greater Las Vegas valley, and industrial companies in mining, and oil and gas, as well as a farming community in Bakersfield, California. Ketos currently operates in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada, and plans to deploy in a city in Minnesota, said Sankaran.

Ketos doesn’t charge for hardware installation—it owns and maintains its equipment—but instead sells access to its data platform. Sankaran declined to disclose the cost of the service, though the Southern Nevada Water Authority has budgeted $55,400 to pay Ketos in fiscal year 2022, as part of a contract spanning from 2019-2026.

For its part, Hydropoint specializes in water management, helping businesses and cities curb their water waste and improve efficiency. Hydropoint has raised over $61 million since its founding in 2002.

The company makes a smart irrigation system that combines a network of water flow, soil moisture, and pressure sensors with weather stations, which help it distribute water according to conditions like rain or drought. Its CEO, Chris Spain, told Emerging Tech Brew that in Hydropoint’s early days, the company relayed watering information through the use of pagers, but the IoT revolution allowed bidirectional communication between sensors and operators, enabling the company to monitor water systems remotely and on a larger scale.

Hydropoint works with cities like Portland, Oregon; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Garden City, Kansas; as well as companies like Google, Home Depot, and Target, to manage water use. In practice, this means making sure plants are watered correctly, wastewater is managed properly, and, ultimately, water costs are reduced. In 2021, Hydropoint managed 86.5 billion gallons of water,  Spain, said, claiming that it saved its customers $119 million in avoided expenses.

“People started realizing they’ve done all the energy conservation, they’ve done all the LED lights, and they started seeing water prices go up so dramatically that they realized that they had no idea what their usage was,” Spain said. “They understood that they were really water blind. They just couldn’t understand even the real total cost of water. And wastewater is costing them from a brand perspective.”

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.