How does a small landscaping services company transform into a technology leader in water conservation?
It all began over six years ago, when CEO Gillan Taddune joined Banyan Water. “I wanted to develop a sophisticated water efficiency solution that, at its simplest level, would offer customers the ability to use data to save water,” Taddune said.
That solution, a software platform connected to a variety of internet-of-things (IoT) devices that track water usage, has grown into a fully-fledged tech company that’s making waves in the world of water management.
Water Scarcity, by the Numbers
Climate change, population growth and pollution are taking a heavy toll on the availability of water. According to the World Wildlife Fund, two-thirds of the global population will be confronted with water shortages in the next five years. It’s an undeniably bleak outlook.
Against numbers like that, it might seem pointless for the average person to fight the growing water crisis by curbing their own modest usage. Short of instituting massive structural change to an industry — a tall order for the average citizen — how much of a difference can one person really make? Or even one company? It would seem like taking shorter showers or running your sprinkler at night would hardly register as a drop in the bucket.
Turns out, that’s not the case.
...leaky faucets, running toilets and inefficient sprinkler systems are responsible for over 1 trillion gallons of wasted water a year — and that’s just from residential households.”
According to the EPA, leaky faucets, running toilets and inefficient sprinkler systems are responsible for over 1 trillion gallons of wasted water a year — and that’s just from residential households.
If water management can paint that kind of picture of water consumption for the average household — and incentives homeowners to make a difference — consider what modern water management on an even larger scale can do.
The commercial and institutional sector is responsible for 17 percent of public water usage, which is the second-largest user in the United States. To temper the drain on the water supply, the EPA recommends that facility managers make a water plan, analyze current water usage to identify wastefulness and regularly check for leaks.
Unfortunately, those common-sense solutions can be massively time-consuming and likely to be bumped off a lengthy to-do list — unless a management system like Banyan Water is in place.
How Banyan Water Is Solving the Problem — Both Small and Big
Banyan Water’s product is a unique one in that it addresses a market and environmental need that many businesses don’t know they have. A slowly dripping faucet hardly seems like a pressing issue until the facts are made available.
“Customers typically do not have an in-depth understanding of their water usage or cost,” said Rebecca Busterud, vice president of digital water solutions at Banyan Water. “So, we do a discovery process to uncover how we can help solve their water challenges.” The team collects data from their client’s site and compares it to their utility bill to demonstrate the significant cost-savings.
“Our default strategy is to use the system on the customer’s behalf so that we can ensure that it’s always being used by someone who understands water management best practices,” said Justin Manuel, Banyan Water’s director of IoT solutions. “With our team managing their properties, the customer is always saving water — regardless of who they have on staff.”
Because our platform is built around water specifically, it works for any type of customer in the built environment who is using water.”
The results are impressive: One of Banyan Water’s clients, a heavily-landscaped commercial property with 108 tenants, saved 10.6 million gallons of water in one year, which translates to about $25,000. Another client, a multi-family real estate management firm, uses Banyan Water in a number of properties around the country and is currently saving 75.8 million gallons of water a year.
These cases aren’t flukes: According to Banyan, their customers end up using 30-70 percent less water, or about 3 billion gallons to date. Turns out, individuals — and small, passionate companies — can make a big difference. “Clients are often skeptical early on,” Taddune said. “Then, they’re quick to see the value that utility savings can have for their bottom line.”
Banyan Water’s success has spilled over from site by site landscaping solutions into larger and complex properties like schools, multi-family residences, retail spaces, commercial properties and more.
“Because our platform is built around water specifically, it works for any type of customer in the built environment who is using water,” Busterud said. “The main difference between these different customer segments is adjusting how the system recognizes anomalies. For example, a school uses water differently than an industrial facility, so our platform would adjust for what is considered ‘normal use.’”
The Tech That’s Saving Water
The analog water meters of yesterday are taking a backseat to Banyan Water’s technology. Packaged up as a complete water management service, Banyan uses IoT devices and SaaS to offer customers a comprehensive approach to saving water.
One component of Bayan’s system is a smart device, Banyan Vine, which interfaces between flow sensors, valve controls and Banyan’s monitoring software to give accurate reads and greater control over usage. Another device, the Banyan Sweet Pea, acts similarly but is able to use parts of a customer’s existing metering to provide additional cost savings.
Combined with rate calculators that verify customer’s water bills, alerts, real-time leak detection and automatic shut-off, Banyan Water provides a comprehensive and updated software solution for conservation.
“Water metering has been around for a long time, but the recent ability to connect the meters to the cloud with an array of wireless technologies has been a game changer,” Manuel said.
Banyan has proven that it can handle more complex systems than traditional metering systems can. One of Banyan’s clients, technology giant HP, uses the Banyan platform to manage its Palo Alto site. With three different water sources that need to be used in a specific order, 45,000 square feet of turf, and lofty conservation goals, there were a number of factors Banyan had to account for.
Aside from leak detection and monitoring, Banyan’s platform is able to predict when certain tanks, like the cheaper and more eco-friendly recycled water tank, will become low. With that information, the system can then adjust usage on the HP campus so that specific tank can refill, resulting in cost-savings.
The results? To date, HP has saved over 3 million gallons of water and uses 42 percent less water.
What’s Coming Down the Pipeline
Banyan is still a small company, but one eager to send ripples into the tech and resource management communities. They’re currently gearing up to release the next generation of the Banyan Sweet Pea, which Manuel describes as “a Swiss Army knife of IoT solutions” because of its ability to interface with more devices than ever before.
For Taddune, Banyan Water has come a long way, but she’s not surprised. “In retrospect, I always knew that we’d grow to where we are today,” she said. “But in my eyes, we’re really just getting started. I’m so excited for what’s ahead.”