WaterMAPS™ is a custom water demand management tool that has been developed by an inter-disciplinary team of Utah State University researchers for the purpose of promoting urban landscape water conservation. The tool identifies urban properties with irrigated landscapes that have the greatest “capacity to conserve” water so that conservation information and interventions can be directed and tailored to water users at those locations. It also helps water suppliers assess the effectiveness of conservation program delivery by monitoring site-specific and service-area changes in landscape water use efficiency over time.
The mission of the WaterMAPS™ team is to provide technical assistance to water suppliers in support of urban water demand management, conservation programming, and water planning and policy decisions. WaterMAPS™ was developed as an analytic and public information tool to help municipalities, water districts, and managers of pressurized secondary irrigation systems better understand patterns of landscape water use. Water applied to landscapes constitutes approximately 65-75% of urban residential water demand in the United States West. Urban landscapes contribute to the health of urban environments and their residents, yet they are often watered in excess of the actual water needs of the vegetation. Increasing landscape water use efficiency offers one of the greatest opportunities for reducing urban water demand in order to manage scarce water supplies in the context of aridity, drought and climate variability.
WaterMAPS™ promotes water use efficiency on existing urban landscapes. The approach takes into account the high degree of variability in urban parcels and people’s landscaping choices. Classification of aerial imagery that characterizes landscape material is used to calculate landscape water need for each individual urban property using local weather data. Landscape water need is compared to the amount of water actually used in order to assess the appropriateness of watering practices. WaterMAPS™ enables these assessments to be conducted for an entire service area, produces landscape water use reports that can be delivered to water users, and directs conservation programs to the locations where they are most needed.
WaterMAPS provides information to water users in a way that recognizes people are generally willing to conserve water and are motivated to do so for a variety of reasons. People often engage in “innocent overwatering” if they do not know how much water their landscape actually needs in the context of weather variability and if they face site-specific constraints to efficiency. Conserving water applied to landscapes is more difficult than conserving water used indoors because it involves the interaction of soils, plants, irrigation systems and human behavior in a changing environment. Landscape water conservation is a process that involves many actions of change, monitoring, adjustment, and reinforcement. WaterMAPS™ provides actionable information to water managers and users to fully support the urban water conservation process over time.