From the the California Investment Guide 2016

Come On In - The Water's Fine

California’s water resource challenges are real, but so are the many technology solutions in use and on the drawing board.


View from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park hiking trails
Photo by Heather Overman
S hould California’s drought dissuade site selectors from considering a Golden State location for their next new facility? No way, and for these reasons: Lots of smart people have been addressing the situation for a long time now. Gov. Jerry Brown’s multi-point California Water Action Plan ensures an ample water supply going forward. Most California residents and businesses already practice stringent water recycling and conservation measures. And the drought won’t last forever.

One more reason should give potential investors even greater confidence — the advanced technology now being applied to many of the measures used today and that will be used in the future. California already is home to countless examples of innovation engineered to refashion the state’s energy industry into one that produces and consumes more renewable energy. It has to. The same is now true of California’s water supply.

“With a growing population of 38 million residents, more than 9 million acres of irrigated land and the world’s eighth-largest economy, California must find new water supply solutions. These solutions are necessary to serve our residents, grow our economy and protect our environment,” write Scott Bryan, president of Imagine H2O, a San Francisco-based water technology accelerator, and Peter Yolles, founder of WaterSmart Software, in a July 31, 2015, article appearing on the website greenbiz.com. The two had recently attended California’s first water technology summit, convened by Gov. Brown in Sacramento, where high-tech drought solutions were showcased and discussed. WaterSmart Software, also based in San Francisco, helps customers improve water-use efficiency by as much as 5 percent; it has 40 partnerships with water utilities throughout the United States and monitors the water use of over 2 million households.

Reservoir of Expertise

In addition to accelerating new water technology enterprises, Imagine H2O is currently in the midst of two policy “challenges” or policy brief competitions — the 2015 California Water Policy Challenge aims to identify policy approaches that help California’s cities, farms and industries deploy water technologies. The winning entry will receive up to $25,000 in support. A Water Data Challenge will identify data-driven solutions to the state’s water resource challenges. Imagine H2O’s accelerator portfolio represents over $1 in every $10 of early-stage financing in the water sector.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Tom Ferguson, Imagine H2O’s vice president of programming, explaining the significance of the Water Data Challenge. Much is unknown with respect to actual groundwater supplies, leakage rates in pipe systems and other areas. Look for new technology solutions to emerge as more of this data becomes available. “There’s loads of data out there, but it’s not organized in such a way that it’s useful,” says Ferguson. “The most important ramification of that is that tactical allocation decisions aren’t made on the basis of fact.”

Water technologies of interest to industrial users increasingly will be those pertaining to water efficiency and reuse and those “at the water-energy nexus,” says Ferguson. “If you’re saving water, more often than not you’re saving energy.”

In the meantime, Ferguson has no qualms about encouraging capital investment in the Golden State — drought or no drought. “I absolutely would tell investors to come on in — the water is fine. The technology is out there that will now be able to circumvent the water problems you would see anywhere — in California, Arizona, Utah, Washington. Here in California you can take advantage of all the state has to offer.” More than ever before, that arguably includes the biggest reservoir of water technology expertise.

Innovators Tackling the Drought

Imagine H20, a San Francisco–based water technology enterprise accelerator, has facilitated the startup of these enterprises, among others:

Dropcountr is working to allow consumers and utilities alike to see their water use and monitor their performance over time. Through a mobile-first format, customers can keep tabs on their use, and utilities can contact them directly with ways to improve their water habits, for example.

Fruition Sciences: As the drought threatens California’s world-class wine industry, Fruition Sciences has a revolutionary technology that allows vineyards to optimize their water use by “listening” to the vine’s water needs. The technology monitors how much water the vine is losing through monitoring the sap flow, improving quality and yields while reducing irrigation requirements. 

InfoSense: Millions of dollars a year are wasted by unnecessary maintenance of water pipes, when often right next door, blockages and floods are waiting to happen. With their cheap, portable, acoustic screening tool, InfoSense is helping utilities better target their maintenance activities, meaning water continues to flow when we need it most.

mOasis: What if you could add a safe substance to the soil that would allow growers to maximize crop yields and conserve water? With Bountigel, that is exactly what mOasis has done. BountiGel holds excess water near the seeds or roots and releases it as soil dries, resulting in less plant stress and significantly higher crop yields while reducing farm water needs.

Nexus eWater: Bringing the future of water recycling to the home, the eWater Recycler is the world’s first integrated water and heat recycling solution. The eWater Recycler offers an affordable, reliable solution to on-site domestic water recycling and wastewater heat recovery, saving the user water, energy and money.

Precision Hawk offers a fully autonomous UAV performing low-altitude aerial data collection and subsequent data management and analysis.

TerrAvion: California’s farmers are using TerrAvion’s real-time aerial imagery service for agriculture to optimize their water deployment to improve crop yields and improve operational efficiency. As they put it, TerrAvion’s Overview technology helps farmers make more money, while helping them run around less. Sounds good.

Valor Water Analytics: Winner of Imagine H2O’s Early Stage Track in 2015, Valor’s team is working with utilities to collect, organize and provide actionable insights from water data. They have cutting-edge customer sales analytics software that allows water utilities to address revenue risk, affordability, and supply management.

WaterSmart Software: With another $7 million from its investors, WaterSmart is helping utilities influence their customers to reduce water consumption. On each utility bill, WaterSmart provides consumers with a view of how they’re doing relative to their neighbors. This “nudge” has led to savings to users of 1.5 million gallons of water, $8.6 million and 29,000 tons of CO2.

Wellntel: Without knowing how much groundwater is at the bottom of your well, managing your consumption to avoid running dry can be a huge challenge. Wellntel is the first ever groundwater information system for homeowners and farmers alike. It measures water levels and other data from your water and displays it online and on your mobile device, allowing you to manage your well system accurately.

Mark Arend
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


The most successful firms in America are conceived, incubated and based in California. The fifth-largest economy in the world, California offers businesses a promise of prosperity.

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