Got Drought? Get Smart.


Fountain Valley Implements Water Restrictions, Exceeds Reduction Goal with 23 Percent Decrease

By Mark Sprague

The images tell the story. Dried up reservoirs, cracked dirt and empty swimming pools are reminders of the ongoing California drought. But what most people don’t see is water providers working tirelessly to keep the water running.

The State of California has asked all residents to help reduce the state’s water usage by 500 billion gallons in order to combat the drought. For California residents, this means reducing daily usage by 15 to 20 gallons. Putting that in perspective, the individual water conservation goal is equal to about 100 glasses of water per day.

Citizens of the City of Fountain Valley were eager to help, but overwhelmed with where to start. First, the city had to figure out where the water was going and share this information with residents. Second, the city had to stop all leaks and unnecessary usage.

The Need for Data

City Hall

Often referred to as Orange County’s best-planned community, Fountain Valley created a master plan long before individual developments sprouted up. This small municipality, home to more 55,000 residents, could not have foreseen the historic drought that it faces. The name Fountain Valley refers to the high water table the area once boasted. With those levels now lower, the community needed a long-term solution to the water crisis.

The first challenge was to identify where water was being used. This would help the water division and customers spot leaks and ways to reduce consumption. The city knew that water was going down the drain, but how much and where, remained a mystery.

The city implemented water restrictions, such as conservation rebates and irrigation restrictions to encourage residents to save water. But without a tool to track these measures, the city couldn’t see if customers were following water mandates.

For example, in Orange County, approximately 50 to 60 percent of household water is used outdoors for activities such as watering lawns. Fountain Valley wanted to restrict watering to certain days of the week, but needed a tool to confirm customers were following the guidelines.

Drought-fighting Tools

The city deployed a Sensus smart water network, including the FlexNet communication system, iPERL residential and OMNI commercial meters. Together, the city and its customers got a lot smarter about where to cut back on water use and proactively identify leaks.

The FlexNet system is a long-range radio network that provides the scalable and reliable communications infrastructure the city needed to enable the smart water network. Sensus OMNI commercial meters offer sustained precision over time, and Sensus iPERL water meters capture the lowest flows and maintain measurement accuracy for their 20-year lifetime.

Exceeding the 20 Percent Reduction Goal


The city decided to turn off its iconic fountain to save water and set a good example for residents.

Through a combination of leadership, citizen commitment and smart water technology, the city exceeded the reduction goal, ultimately cutting usage by 23 percent.

The solutions helped the city monitor drought conservation regulations and exceed its goal of a 20 percent drop in water use. The smart water network alerts the water division to high volume users and allowed the utility to work closely with those customers to find ways to use water more efficiently.

Restrictions and conservation rebates are some of the ways residents are encouraged to save water. Those efforts continue to reach new levels by using smart water technology. Now, the city can:

  • See where and how much water is being used
  • Proactively share data with residents and businesses
  • Empower residents to work together to conserve water and prevent leaks

The team at the water division for the City of Fountain Valley also receives a dozen or more leak alerts each week. With this data, the team is able to address minor issues through customer calls and letters. When alerted to a major leak, staff immediately heads to the location to address the issue. In fact, within a few short months, the city stopped two major leaks that threatened to waste even more water and ruin a home’s foundation.

Before deploying the technology, it was difficult to determine how much water the city was losing each year and determine when customers were not following restrictions. Today, the city knows almost immediately where water is going and it educate customers who are watering at incorrect times.

Building a Better Future

Meeting the water usage reduction mandate is just the beginning. The city recently deployed Customer Connect, an online portal that encourages residents to sign up, monitor their usage and even detect leaks on their own. This technology helps the city conserve for the long term.

The water scarcity issue in California is an ongoing challenge, but with the improved data accuracy and applications provided through the Sensus smart water network, the City of Fountain Valley is on the path to creating a better future for the community.

Mark SpragueMark Sprague is the utilities manager for the City of Fountain Valley, Calif. He has more than 12 years of experience working in the utilities industry. Sprague started his career with the city in 2006 and has held several positions, including water system operator and water supervisor. As utilities manager, he is responsible for the management, operations and maintenance of the city’s water, storm drain and sewer systems. He is also the city’s liaison to the Orange County Water District (OCWD), Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), and the Poseidon Desalination Project where he protects the city’s interests on a variety of regional water, water treatment, water quality and water supply-related issues.


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