AquaWatch To Create 30 New Jobs
A new Ballybay-based company, AquaWatch Ltd,www.aquawatch.ie has developed a water conservation and leakage alert device that is attracting growing interest in the water services sector and has recently become part of a major study on water use being carried out at Trinity College Dublin.
The innovative AquaWatch device works in conjunction with a consumer’s water meter, alerting them when they are using excessive amounts of water or, for example, when they have an ongoing leak.
The idea arose following a significant water leak at a business premises in Co. Monaghan. As so often with leakage, this had gone undetected for at least six months, resulting in a massive bill of €13,500, a far cry from the usual average bill of €200 for a similar period!
The leak was located and dealt with by Éamonn Hughes and this experience prompted him to look further into the major problem of water leakage and, more importantly, into the development of an early-warning system.
After detailed research, Eamonn contacted Aidan McGinn, an electrical contractor from Clontibret, for his expertise. Éamonn’s initial idea was for a flashing light to show excessive water usage, but following a series of contacts with practitioners in the water services sector, including the National Federation of Group Water Schemes and Monaghan County Council, it became clear that a more sophisticated response would be required.
Brian MacDonald of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) informed Éamonn and Aidan that as Research & Evaluation Officer he had been trying for several years to source a practical and low-cost device that would allow GWS members to keep an eye on their water consumption without having to open their meter box ... but without success!
Encouraging AquaWatch to continue the development of such a device, he explained:
'Group schemes ask their members to be vigilant with respect to their water demand. The reality is, however, that most people won't get down on their knees to open a meter box and take a reading.
‘This means that leaks can go undetected until the next bill arrives and they are then shocked to discover that they have to pay for water that escaped, possibly from a pipe between the meter box and their home!'
Mr MacDonald added that 'water loss on farms, as well as in commercial outlets and social building (such as schools) can be very high and such losses have to be paid for. It would make sense, therefore, to fit an early warning system that will save money in the medium to long-term.
‘Because of the interest expressed by the NFGWS and by other service providers, we have identified our target market.’
Group water schemes in Monaghan alone have almost 10,000 metered households, with thousands more meters on field connections. Across Ireland, there are upwards of 200,000 GWS households and high proportions of these are already metered, or are in the process of installing meters.
Similarly, local authorities across the country have installed hundreds of thousands of meters on non-domestic connections and in recent years have been fitting meter boxes in housing developments, in preparation for the introduction of a meter-based charging system.
The AquaWatch unit will be of interest to everyone who has a meter fitted, as it offers them protection against financial loss through an undetected leak. ‘It’s as simple as that’
‘The unit can be fitted inside your property or on a pier or fence outside and the pilot study has confirmed that it can withstand all weather conditions.
‘The best option is to fit it at the stage of construction of a new building when a two core underground telephone cable or the equivalent can be simply installed. Alternatively, a pipe with a pull wire can be extended from the water meter to the inside of the house (i.e. recessed in to wall/back splash beside the kitchen sink, which is the ideal location for easy monitoring).
‘This product is also suitable for people using their own private wells. Not only does it save electricity, as well as wear and tear of the motor and pump, but it may also save your well going dry!’
‘Water leakage is a major issue. Householders, farmers, Local Authorities, Industrial and Agricultural Users lose thousands of Euros each year due to undetected leaks. With the proposed introduction of water metering on a national basis, this device, when fitted could save vast quantities of water and money for many consumers.’
Éamonn explained that after last winter, water shortages are no longer just a summer problem, but can be a major issue in the wintertime as well. By reducing daily water demand on a water supply network, the AquaWatch unit will help reduce pressure on sources.
In terms of potential overseas markets, Éamonn is convinced that predicted shortages of quality drinking water worldwide will open up markets globally to the Aquawatch unit. In light of this projected demand, he hopes to have thirty employed with the company within two years.
Aquawatch monitors the customer’s water usage alerting them both visually and audibly if excess water is used (e.g. in the case of a leak). The unit has 2 different coloured LED lights, one sounder and a digital display screen.
One light indicates the flow rate of liquid with every pulse of the device (e.g. every litre), and the second light and sounder provides an alert when a consumers’ average daily use has been exceeded. An alarm light flashes for 24hrs and then resets, thus indicating excess water usage or a leak.
Average daily use is programmed by the user using the function buttons and the sounder can be programmed on or off, or reset at anytime.
AquaWatch works on the principle of hard-wiring cable from a water meter to the unit in which information is logged over a 24 hour period. Each hourly usage of water can be individually reviewed over this period.
The display screen displays the total number of pulses (each representing a litre) and also a trip counter that can be reset at any time to work out your average daily use. This is all controlled by software on a microprocessor.
It also logs the previous 24 hours with a reading for each individual hour so as to allow the customer to read back which hour they used the most and the least amounts of water for example to see if the meter stops during the night, thus indicating there are no leaks.
Other functions on the unit that would be of benefit to water service providers are cumulative water meter readings, which can be transferred on to the unit so that it reads the same as the water meter. The meter ID is also programmable and can be set by the customer, whether the service provider or the end user. It can be fitted to any size of meter.
Other accessories that will be available are a remote wireless unit, which is tested to work up to 600 metres from the master unit; this is to alleviate having to dig up the concrete of existing houses, farm yards etc. This wireless unit will alert the user to average daily use exceeded. It can be easily carried around in the case of out farms etc.
Future developments are, with alarm activation, it will be possible to shut off the water when connected to a solenoid valve and a text alert unit will be available for meters where power is available or alternatively, there will be a solar power option available.
Led by Jennifer Brady, this study is evaluating the effectiveness of water usage feedback in significantly reducing household water consumption. This research has largely been focused on group water scheme households, given that these pay for water and are, therefore, likely to be more conscious of usage.
The GWS research will form part of an overall study aimed at addressing the lack of information on residential water consumption patterns. It involves detailed analysis of household water consumption, the factors that influence demand and also attitudes to water usage and conservation.
A total of 90 group water scheme households will be involved in this feedback study where weekly meter readings will be undertaken over a number of months. A number of these households will be provided with an indoor wireless AquaWatch device to determine to what extent demand is reduced where the consumer has continuous information available to them.
Managing Director of AquaWatch (www.aquawatch.ie), Éamonn Hughes has extensive experience in innovation, having worked for Moffett Engineering for ten years as an engineering technician and hydraulic fitter.
He then worked in the U.S. working in carpentry and on his return to Ireland set up Readymade Wood Products. In 1999 he invented and produced a wood wedge making machine, the patent rights of which he sold to WEDGIES www.wedgies.net and for whom he still manufactures.
In 2001 he invented the Wallmaster 360 which cuts block walls with 80% less dust, noise and vibration than conventional methods www.wallmaster360.com
This machine has proved to be very suitable for use in hospitals, nursing homes and other commercial premises. Eamonn still carries out work with this machine. Another of his business enterprise is the erection of stand alone timber buildings suitable for offices, play rooms etc. www.chillout-side.com
Eamonn says” After an extensive amount of work on this project, I am finally looking forward to seeing the tested units coming off the production line within the coming days. I was amazed to find that Ireland can compete with plastic and electronic manufacturing internationally but have found that better quality can be assured by sourcing in Ireland.” The device is a DIY project for the customer and anyone who can programme a DVD player can programme the unit. An instruction leaflet will be enclosed with the device but for any person, who is reluctant to fit it themselves, can use the services of a local handyman or electrician/plumber. The website will have a list of the merchants in each county who will stock the unit. Maurice Grahams in Monaghan will be the local outlet initially.
And what about the price? Éamonn informs us that the retail cost of the unit will be €175 plus VAT.
The AquaWatch unit was previewed at the National & European Ploughing Championships in Sept 2010, and we received excellent feedback from farmers, Co.Councils, Group Water Scheme managers and members, businesses and industrial consumers.
AquaWatch launched their unit at the Resource Ireland Exhibition in the RDS on 13/14th October were delighted to come runner-up in the Environmental Innovation Award 2010 competition. The award is designed to reward and highlight innovative environmental products and services. The winner was a well established UK company with a street lighting energy reduction product. 22 companies were entered in the competition.