Here's a crowd-funding campaign that probably deserves to be doing better than it is. Driblet is a smart water meter that connects to a water pipe to track use. Best of all, once it's installed, you don't need to worry about it running out of energy.
Even if you pay a flat rate for your water, Driblet might help you to keep your energy bills down, tracking and storing temperature so users can keep an eye out for water being heated more than is necessary. But probably the cleverest thing about Driblet is that it harvests energy from the water flowing through the pipe. Its battery doesn't need to be replaced or recharged – in fact, it doesn't even have one.
As you might expect in 2013, Driblet is a fully fledged Internet of Things device, so it'll report back to the cloud via your Wi-Fi without need of syncing it with a computer. Stored on a remote server, data about your water usage is ready to be accessed by an Android or iOS device (or it will be, when the apps are released, which will be "soon" apparently).
Driblet can also be configured to trigger certain alarms if your preset consumption targets are in jeopardy. Its makers reckon these alarms can cut consumption by up to 30 percent. They say that they are working with governments, companies and NGOs to use the patent-pending technology in water conservation programs, and that they are working to donate water to areas of need.
That will hopefully be of some consolation to backers, as the Driblets themselves are rather expense: US$99 to early bird backers, $109 thereafter, or $199 for two. Though it appears that, once installed, a Driblet will work on any water pipe, they're probably most useful installed at the points of use: faucets etc. That way, usage can be tracked and understood on a room-by-room basis. Even if you only have faucets in your kitchen and one bathroom, one shower and one toilet, monitoring both hot and cold water consumption throughout the entire property gets expensive rather quickly. If you compromise by installing Driblets only on your main hot and cold water pipes, all you're really getting then is your total use (and you might well have a meter for that already).
But that's assuming they can be installed. Driblets screw into place, and are recommended for showers, bathtubs and backyard faucets, which does limit the possibilities somewhat: at least without improvisational plumbing.
It's perhaps disappointing that there are no real savings for bulk orders (insert the usual caveats about the risks of crowd funding campaigns here). Remarkably, the $500 package doesn't include five (or better yet, six) Driblets; it includes two, a t-shirt and two water bottles. To put that in perspective, you could pre-order two Driblets, two t-shirts and two water bottles for $269 if you split your order up into three different pledges.
As someone that lives in an old London flat with no intelligence in its systems, I can see the appeal of an easy-to-install means of tracking my water consumption. Alas, the cost of doing so with Driblets for my entire system, even opting for the best-value pledges, remains prohibitively expensive. And mine's a small flat, too.
Still, for some families, installing one on the main shower might well prove both useful and economical in time.