New App Lets You Report Water Wasters In Your Neighborhood

Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevepj2009/">stephen jones</a>/Flickr/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons</a>

First we find out that public employees can fine us for wasting water per new regulations by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Now we learn that civilians can take matters into their own hands and report water wasters in their neighborhoods.

Inspired by the social media hashtag #droughtshaming, a company called Vizsafe has recently added a new section called "Drought" to their crowdsourced community safety app.

"There's a lot of focus on turning to social media to identify neighbors that may not be following rules with respect to water conservation," said Vizsafe founder and CEO Peter Mottur. "It recently occurred to us our platform is well suited for that."

Vizsafe originally launched their app in April to allow users to report on anything from lost pets to domestic violence in their neighborhoods. After noticing people in California take to Twitter to complain about their neighbors' wasteful water usage, the company realized its app could serve as a public forum for users to anonymously upload photos of the offending property and map the location for all to see.

Along with "drought shaming" water wasters publicly, the app also creates reports from Twitter. Any tweet with the hashtag #droughtshaming that also includes a photo and location tag is automatically fed into Vizsafe's drought feed.

"@CabrilloCollege WASTES WATER. #droughtshaming #ridiculous #runoff EVERY SATURDAY," read one recent report with a photo of water pooling on the pavement.

"Guess they don't know there is a drought in California... #Doubletree #DroughtShaming," said another, referring to the Doubletree Hilton at John Wayne Airport whose sidewalks had been wetted down.

Since California introduced the fines, popularity of #droughtshaming has spiked on social media, as this graph shows.

Photo by <a href="http://topsy.com/analytics?q1=%23droughtshaming">Topsy Analytics</a>

But authorities won't turn to social media to investigate and fine water wasters.

"We would rather people just go ahead and call us," said Michelle Vargas, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) spokeswoman.

If outing your neighbors (or local businesses) in public isn't your thing, cities have encouraged their residents to anonymously report water waste by calling designated hotlines (the numbers vary by district). In Sacramento, authorities said they've received about 10,000 calls this year from residents concerned about their neighbors' water usage.

Of course, there's always the old-fashioned approach: Just talk to them directly.

Sound off: Do you think publicly shaming someone for wasting water is more effective than simply fining them?

About the Author

Linda Ly runs the award-winning blog Garden Betty, which chronicles her adventures in the dirt and on the road. Her first book, The CSA Cookbook, will be out March 2015.
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