SDG
UNLEASH

Solution catalogue

UNLEAK

Free leak detection for all

Leaks inside homes lose enough water to serve 600 million people each day. UNLEAK will fix this in water stressed cities by offering free leak detection and cheap repairs to all. Using a method to check for leaks from outside homes, we will audit entire neighborhoods at once. We will coordinate bulk discounts from plumbers and offer heavily discounted repairs to leaking households. Plumbers will pay us a referral fee for driving business to them. We expect each 100 houses to cost us $13 to audit and generate $30 in revenue. In this way we will profitably and scalably reduce water consumption in water stressed cities.

Problem

Water that could serve 600 million people is lost through undetected leaks in grid connected homes every day. Utilities have little incentive to take action since the water is being paid for, and consumers are usually unaware of the prevalence and magnitude of water loss from leaks in their households.

In water stressed cities, every drop matters. This kind of water wastage can have a huge impact on people’s lives. If we could simplify the process of leak detection and repair, a significant amount of water could be conserved and redirected to the community, lifting stress both from the people and the environment.

Solution

We propose a four step solution to find and fix household water leaks:

  1. Check for leaks: Conduct free leak audit of a neighborhood. We do this by inspecting each house’s meter (which is often located on the street) for flow. If there is flow, we return to check again up to 2 more times, before concluding that the flow is caused by a leak. This process is coordinated through our app.
  2. Build awareness & obtain customers: Drop a flyer in the mailboxes of all leaking homes, notifying them that they have a leak, the likely cost of the leak, and asking them to sign up for a plumber who will do a bulk repair of their neighborhood at a heavily discounted rate.
  3. Fix leaks: Customers book a time with the plumber through our call centre or website, and plumber fixes all leaks in bulk.
  4. Use referral fees to scale: Plumber pays UNLEAK a referral fee which funds audits of new neighborhoods and generates profits.

Making home owners aware of leaks and removing the requirement of active action from them would enable them to save water and money (on water bills and on leak repair). The conserved water reduces environmental stress and strain on city water infrastructure.

Innovation

Our business model allows us to profitably detect leaks for free and enable cheaper repairs: 1. We remove barriers to households fixing leaks by identifying leaks, building awareness, and reducing the cost to fix. 2. We align incentives between plumbers and households: plumbers make more money by better utilizing their time; households reduce the cost of fixing leaks.

In markets with smart water meters, some utilities use consumption data to alert households of potential leaks. However, most water-stressed cities are located in regions where smart water meters are not present. When these are eventually rolled out, they will likely first go to the highest value customers, leaving the most vulnerable people neglected for many years.

This approach has not been tried for three reasons:

  1. Utilities are not incentivized: they are paid for water leaks inside homes, and rather focus resources on non-revenue water.
  2. Plumbers lack relevant skills: plumbers are generally not experts in developing innovative business models and logistics systems.
  3. Households lack awareness: the prevalence and cost of leaks inside homes is not widely known.

Impact

UNLEAK will impact water, environment and energy.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that fixing one tap cuts an average household water bill by 10%. Utilities also benefit by being able to redirect the water saved to other households instead of investing in new capacity. The water conserved saves energy that would have been spent on producing water and treating wastewater, which is typically 30-40% of a municipality’s energy consumption budget. In turn, we will reduce the carbon footprint and environmental stress of these plants.

UNLEAK will generate more business for plumbers and create employment for unskilled workers with a focus on youth from low-income groups and women who would be trained to gather data through our app.

Our solution relates to target 6.4 regarding water-use efficiency and hence the following indicators can be used as a measure of our success: 6.4.1 Change in water-use efficiency over time. 6.4.2 Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources.

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