Envision uptown Charlotte saving water

Envision Charlotte is adding a water measurement and efficiency program in uptown Charlotte to the energy program it already has in place. The project, announced Tuesday, will use sophisticated technology to monitor and record water usage in most of the large office buildings in the city’s core. The project’s goals are to significantly reduce water consumption and create systems that can be replicated in other cities. 

The system, called Smart Water Now, will gather water usage data from a network of devices and deliver “near real-time” information to 64 interactive kiosks located throughout uptown Charlotte. Building occupants can track the city’s progress on the system’s kiosks, on the web or on their smart phones. The system already uses the same approach to monitor energy usage. The program for water consumption is expected to be in place by this fall.

The program’s director, Greg Johnson, said goals for reduced water consumption are being developed now.  “We set a very aggressive goal for energy – reduce our aggregate energy consumption by 20 percent over the next five years. We want to set a goal for water that is similarly ambitious. Once we incorporate water consumption into the project we hope to add waste reduction, and air quality improvement.” 

Where might significant water savings come from? Heating and air-conditioning systems and personal water use are two areas in which the program hopes to help reduce water use. Replacing or upgrading toilets is a strategy that often makes economic sense. 

According to Johnson, the program’s overall approach has been to, “move beyond thinking about a bunch of individual green office buildings and start thinking about a green uptown.” The system is able to monitor uptown’s core as though it were one big office building, while providing detailed information for individual buildings. Most of the uptown’s office buildings with more than 10,000 square feet are included in the project. More than 500 volunteers are participating in the project to champion conservation efforts in their buildings.

“One of the ideas we have kept front and center is the link between sustainability and economic growth,” said Johnson. “We believe that by making our city more sustainable we improve the environment and make the city more livable. That, in turn, lowers the cost of doing business in Charlotte and attracts jobs to our city.”

The project is based on a public-private partnership, with the City of Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department playing key roles. “Envision Charlotte is creating a model for communities and demonstrating the link between sustainability and growth,” Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who helped push for the initiative’s creation, said in a statement. “I applaud the leadership and innovation from our utility and the solution partners with whom they are working. Charlotte is the first city in the world to endeavor to reduce the carbon footprint of its central business district, and together we are working to make center city Charlotte the most environmentally sustainable center city on the planet.”

The companies involved on the new water project are CH2M Hill, which is managing the project; Itron , which is providing water communication modules, the network infrastructure, cloud services and data aggregation; Verizon, which will gather water usage data from a network of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices and deliver data to kiosks; Siemens, which is providing project support.