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water monitoring at USU

Cyberinfrastructure for Intelligent Water Supply

Dr. Jeff Horsburgh recently received an NSF CAREER Award research grant to extend his efforts to create the cyberinfrastructure and analytical tools to make the data from residential "smart" meters more useful for water resource managers.

Dr. Horsburgh monitoring water usage at USU

Study Area:

Logan, UT (Cache Co.)

Principal Investigators:

Jeff Horsburgh


Utah State University Housing Department, iUTAH

outline map of Utah showing study area

Trixie Rife (PhD), Sarah Guzman (MS), Darriane Willey (BS), Joydino Beyale (BS), Holly Flan (BS), Mitch Steele (BS)

Project Description

Municipal water meters are fairly simple and accurate; however, most residential meters are read only once per month. This results in rough usage data that is often rounded to the nearest 1,000 gallons. Without more precise data, managers cannot distinguish individual water uses, such as sprinklers versus toilets, or determine usage by time of day. This limits their ability to notice costly leaks or see opportunities for water conservation. Water users see their total usage, but have no useful information about how and when they use water.

With growing populations in cities and increasing uncertainty about water supply and quality, water resource managers are looking for smarter tools to measure and manage urban water use. So-called ‘smart’ meters are one such technology that can capture water use data at high temporal resolution. Smart meters can improve water end-use forecasting and create useful information about demand and supply. Nonetheless, while the new meters show promise, they have failed to achieve widespread adoption in the U.S.

“Replacing existing, analog meters is expensive,” said Dr. Jeff Horsburgh, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Utah State University. He notes that the cyberinfrastructure doesn't yet exist to extract useful information from the huge volume of data that smart meters produce. Without standardized data formats, or tools to store and analyze water usage figures, the extra volume of data that smart meters produce can make it harder for utility managers to do their jobs.

To turn complex water data into useful information, Horsburgh is developing an integrated research and education plan called Cyberinfrastructure for Intelligent Water Supply.

This effort puts the researchers at the Utah Water Research Laboratory in the USU's College of Engineering at the leading edge in creating new hydroinformatics developments to build a dependable urban water cyberinfrastructure and analysis tools that collect, shrink, and transform water data into useful information.

“The ongoing research will significantly close the gap in our ability to quantify and forecast urban water use and behavior,” he said.

As part of the study, Horsburgh’s team will install smart meters on about 50 homes and inside dormitory buildings on the USU Logan Campus to study patterns in residential water use. With the ability to track water usage in high temporal resolution, Horsburgh’s goal is to quantify the timing and distribution of household water use to provide better information for both water users and managers.

On the USU campus, the new meters and data will also allow dorm residents to compete for the title of most water efficient in a friendly campus water wars competition.

In addition to his ongoing research, Horsburgh is part of the leadership team for a statewide study known as iUTAH. The five-year initiative is an NSF-supported program integrating research, training and education, aimed at strengthening science for Utah’s water future.


Benefits to Utah

  • The results of this research will give water resource managers across the U.S. smarter tools and information products for water supply/demand and forecasting.
  • This major NSF grant makes it possible for USU engineering researcher to develop a new and widely applicable urban water usage cyberinfrastructure.
  • ‘Smart’ meters and new data analysis tools help to close the gap in Utah water managers' ability to measure and manage urban water use behavior.
  • Smart meters installed at USU campus dormitories will let residents compete in a Water Wars efficiency competition to increase awareness of water conservation.


Horsburgh was selected by the National Science Foundation to receive the prestigious CAREER award grant and will receive $507,000 to help fund this ongoing research. He and his team have developed an inexpensive technology to make existing analog meters smarter. The program will create new tools that collect, shrink and transform high resolution data into useful information products for water managers.