You'll find a similar experience with the indoor options. For instance, WaterGenius can show you multiple low-flow showerheads, each with a WaterSense logo (sort of a plumbing version of Energy Star) to prove that it meets EPA criteria. The site may also provide prices for more than one retailer. And, of course, it will refer you to local plumbers.
How does BKi know which products, and which professionals, are worthy of recommendation? Gitt freely admitted that the company doesn't do its own testing. Instead, it uses standards and certifications such as WaterSense, and it aggregates consumer reviews from such sites as Home Depot, Yelp, and Amazon.
For service professionals, it turns to groups such as the California Landscape Contractor's Association. "There are a lot of unlicensed contractors out there, and we don't want to recommend them," Gitt explained.
How much will this actually help?
WaterGenius won't save California--for a number of reasons.
It's one thing to say that you're willing to cut water use. But replacing your dishwasher, washing machine, faucets, toilets, and manicured lawn are an entirely different issue. I suspect that most Californian homeowners will be reluctant to shell out thousands of dollars to make these changes.
Changing your water-using habits , on the other hand, doesn't cost a dime. But it has a steep learning curve, and it isn't what WaterGenius is about. "We'll have links on behavior and conservation," Gitt told me, "but the big savings will come when you upgrade."
Besides, regular consumers don't use all that much. About 80 percent of California's usable water goes to agriculture (although some vigorously dispute that statistic). Yes, we need food, but without finding solutions in that sector, nothing else will matter.
But I suspect that next time I need to replace a water-using device, I'll check WaterGenius to see what's recommended. After all, the site is free.
BKi plans to release a paid, professional version later this summer, geared towards businesses, campuses, and apartment houses. The free version, the company hopes, will "build awareness" for the future paid one.
Gitt insists that retailers, local professionals, and others to whom WaterGenius will steer business are not paying for their visibility. "No one is contributing financially at this point."
WaterGenius isn't the panacea for the drought. But if it works as described, it will be a useful resource for Golden State homeowners.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.