New devices will help track UC Merced’s water usage

Water conservation could help the university save thousands annually.

The University of California (UC) Merced has partnered with a start-up company in the Silicon Valley to use a new technology that will help the university better track its water usage.

The university hopes that the technology will also help create a water-saving culture on campus.

This summer, the university bought 40 Aquacue Barnacles for about $40,000 and attached them to the 40 water meters around campus. An Aquacue Barnacle is a device that monitors water usage and tracks data in real time.

The sophisticated devices are produced by Aquacue Inc., a startup company based in Los Gatos.

In the long term, the technology will help the university comply with two state laws, including the Water Conservation Act of 2009, which sets the goal of reducing the per-capita urban water use by 20 percent by 2020, said Jim Genes, special assistant to the vice chancellor of administration at UC Merced.

For now, the university is using the technology as an opportunity to create more awareness among students and get them into a habit of saving water.

The campus began a water conservation contest, “UC Merced Water Battle 2011,” a week ago at the Valley Terraces residence halls, where there are nine water meters — one for each hall.

The competition will go through the end of this month to see which hall saves the most water per person.