Last year, California's drought cost our economy over $2 billion and 20,000 jobs. Californians understand that the lack of a sustainable water supply costs us much more than brown lawns. The drought has forced all of us to understand that water is not an unlimited resource.
In Silicon Valley, the drought has also spurred a new generation of California's innovators and entrepreneurs to seek novel solutions to one of our oldest and greatest challenges.
Some may wonder why the innovation engine in Silicon Valley has not already invented technology to solve our water problems and believe there's a lack of interest in taking on the challenge. But ensuring sustainable access to water to support nearly 40 million people, and farms that feed the entire nation, is an enormous and complex challenge. It cannot be met by a single new technology or software program.
This challenge must be met by a range of solutions that will enable communities, businesses and farmers to use water in a smarter, greener and distributed manner.
In Silicon Valley, we are seeing some of these promising solutions emerge now. Entrepreneurs are taking proven technologies from biotech, transportation, and energy, and applying them to water. These entrepreneurs are focused on providing personalized data that customers can use to conserve water, and reduce their water bill, and that utilities can use to reduce costs and enhance conservation.
WaterSmart Software, for example, sells software that provides personalized data to individuals on how much water they're using, how their use compares to their neighbors, and how they can most easily conserve water. This cost-effective tool alone has generated water savings of 5-10 percent.
DropCountr offers an application for mobile devices that provides real-time data to homeowners on their water use. The application notifies homeowners of potential leaks, when their water use approaches a higher-rate tier, and how their use compares to their neighbors.
Valor Water Analytics focuses on utilities, giving them the data-analytics tools to identify leaks, broken water meters, and other causes of lost revenue to help utilities offset the declining revenues caused by conservation and rising operating costs. When utilities operate more efficiently, everyone benefits from improvements in infrastructure and lower rates.
This is only a snapshot of the region's startups using data to advance water conservation. Other local startups such as OndaVia, Liquidity Corp, Natel Energy, and WaterFX are pioneering new solutions to water resource challenges. Other startups are helping farmers boost productivity while using less water. An ecosystem of local entrepreneurs is changing the way citizens, farmers, companies, and governments manage water resources globally.
Water solution businesses, unlike some Silicon Valley success stories, are not built in a weekend. However, the region's mindset of fast-paced innovation is needed in a world desperately seeking water solutions. Nothing is more important than a secure supply of clean water, and nowhere is that more evident that in our own state.
In the clean energy field, we've seen how our state's innovation engine, paired with creative public policy, can power economic growth while conserving scarce resources. Expect the world's greatest innovation engine, right here in Silicon Valley, to be at the forefront of solving the next great resource challenge — water.
Steve Westly is the former California State Controller and founder of The Westly Group, a clean tech venture capital fund. He serves on the board of WaterSmart Software. Scott Bryan is President of Imagine H2O, a water innovation accelerator. They wrote this for this newspaper.