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Cal Poly graduate invents sensor to monitor water usage from your phone

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 18:54:35-04

California beat its drought this year, but from that seven-year drought came a new device, engineered by a Cal Poly graduate.

The sensor, called Flume, could be the next step in water conservation from your couch.

Each American uses about 88 gallons of water at home each day, according to the EPA. That same report shows on average, a family spends $1,000 on water every year.

“You literally just take [the device], put it on the side of the meter, run some water, and just like that you’re calibrated,” said Eric Adler, co-founder and CEO of Flume, Inc., while demonstrating the device.

Eric Adler, Co-founder and CEO of Flume


Flume Tech seems like a rather simple solution to a problem California has faced for decades.

“We saw the state trying to encourage a way to reduce their consumption, but there wasn’t that feedback,” Adler said. “No one really knew how much water they were using.”

The Flume device tells you exactly that and about any leaks you aren’t aware of.

“All this real-time data on your home,” he said. “You can see how much water you use today, whether or not water is running, percentage of your daily average.”

Adler is working to get it to water districts across the country. So far, the company has found six partners that have begun pilot programs including Rainbow Municipal Water District north of San Diego.

Tom Kennedy, the general manager of the district, learned of the device while visiting his daughter who attends Cal Poly. The biggest question — does the device work?

Flume sensor attached to a water meter.


“We put it on our meter testing bench to determine whether it accurately recorded water testing, which it did to within a fraction of one percent,” Kennedy said. “And the feedback has been virtually 100 percent positive.”

Within the first weekend, Kennedy said, a number of participants found a leak in their home.

Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo agreed to a pilot program with Flume this month, offering devices that cost $200 for $10. The city declined an interview but provided this statement:

“We believe that this program can be a win for our community and for the environment. The City is always looking for new ways to conserve resources and one of those ways is by incorporating new technologies. The Cal Poly study should provide insights into how improved data accessibility can enable a customer to take the action into their own hands. We are excited to see how new products like this can improve awareness about our valuable water resources while protecting and preserving them for generations to come.”

“The passion was water conservation,” Adler said. “The passion was trying to figure out a way for people to better understand what is going on and the thesis that knowledge is power, and we want to be on the forefront of solving those [water shortage] issues.”

Flume is run from Cal Poly’s Hot House in San Luis Obispo, a community space that helps students and others work to create new innovations and start business ventures.

You can learn more about Flume and how to obtain one through the partnership with the city by visiting the company’s website.