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Smart eco tech tackles water waste in tourism industry

18 April 2024

Guests in tourist accommodations use up to 250 more litres of water than they would in their own homes. Now, researchers have developed a new way to cut down these unprecedented water stress levels.

(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock)

Researchers explored a behaviour change technique known as continuous, real-time eco-feedback, which is the process of feeding real-time information back to an individual during their behaviour with the purpose of reducing their environmental impact. 

Analysis showed that shower water runtime was 77 seconds quicker (25.79 percent) in the group that received continuous, real-time eco-feedback than in the group that received no feedback.   

Dr Pablo Pereira-Doel, lead author of the study, Lecturer at the University of Surrey, and Water programme co-lead at the Surrey Institute for Sustainability, said: “Many tourist hotspots worldwide face unprecedented water stress levels. At Surrey, we are trying to do our part to help the tourism industry use less water. 

“Our research demonstrates that guests in tourist accommodations take shorter showers with enabling technology, reducing water, energy, and carbon emissions.” 

In the first-of-its-kind study, an innovative smart water-saving technology known as Aguardio was installed in tourist accommodation shower cubicles and provided continuous, real-time eco-feedback to the user (their shower length) through a timer. 

The technology was used in combination with persuasive messages on a sticker such as “Will you beat the clock?”, “Water conservation starts with you,” and “Make a difference!” with a view to test their effectiveness. 

Thomas Munch-Laursen, founder of Aguardio said: “The positive results obtained through the different experiments developed in tourism accommodations contributed to raising over £1 million in private and public investment to develop the Aguardio Shower Sensor solution. 

“The collaboration with the University of Surrey has had a significant influence on the development of Aguardio from, being a start-up to becoming a scale-up company. The different results and insights gained from the University of Surrey’s study have had a positive impact on the onboarding of new Aguardio customers and the development of the final Aguardio Shower Sensor.” 

Water stress is increasing and is already one of the most important global environmental threats. It is being accelerated by population growth and climate change, causing severe and rapid changes in the global freshwater structure, and putting food and water security at risk. 

“Our innovative and robust approach emphasises the effectiveness of smart technology to foster resource conservation,” said Professor Xavier Font, Professor of Sustainability Marketing at the University of Surrey and co-author of the study.

This study’s outputs, based on actual behaviour measurement, show that eco-feedback can have a dramatic effect on water use, and that sustainability communications matter. We are expanding our studies on this area.” 

The smart technology used in this research was equipped with sensors to detect showers, to provide continuous, real-time eco-feedback on their length, as well as connectivity to send the shower data to the researchers via Wi-Fi, with a newer version of the technology now using Bluetooth. 

Through the sensor unit, the technology continuously detected water sound, motion, temperature, and humidity. Based on these variables, the technology used an algorithm to identify showers in real-time and their duration was fed back to the in-situ display unit in the form of a timer. The shower data collected was sent regularly to the cloud via Wi-Fi. 

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