Smart meters have been prominent in the energy utility world, and are beginning to make substantial inroads in the water utility world. Smart meters are probably more useful for the water sector than for the energy sector, and the old days of billing total water consumption during the last month or two is being phased out with the introduction of time-of-use water consumption information. Smart meter installations have reported numerous benefits, both operational and on the customer side (see Table 1). Aside from the obvious savings from reduced need for onsite meter reading, the ability to identify not just the volume of water consumption but also the timing of that consumption has significant benefits, particularly to customers, and may be a linchpin for enhanced water conservation efforts.
One of the state of California's largest end uses of electricity is in the treatment, heating and cooling, and conveyance of water. In 2005, the California Energy Commission estimated that water-related energy accounts for almost 20% of the state's electricity requirements. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) followed this observation by authorizing water-energy pilot projects designed to validate claims that saving water can save energy and explore whether energy savings may be realized through water conservation measures and incorporated into electric utility energy efficiency programs (http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/Energy+Efficiency/Water+Energy+Nexus+Programs.htm).
A joke long popular among disaffected employees and humorists in the power industry asks, "What is the difference between an electric utility and a group of Boy Scouts in the woods?"