With soft blond bangs peeking out from underneath her beret, Esther Altura describes herself as a petite woman who does not take up much space in the world.
But anyone who meets the Israeli software engineer, mathematician, real estate property investor and modern-orthodox grandmother in her late 60s soon realizes that while she may be softspoken and short in stature, she is certainly not diminutive in her drive and determination, and in the space she fills with her work.
After years of a successful career as a project manager overseeing the development and design of sophisticated computer systems for some of the largest companies in California—where she lived for almost two decades with her American husband and four children—and at an age when most people are thinking of slowing down and enjoying retirement, Altura is working 18-hour days expanding the water conservation startup she launched with her son, Ariel.
Nowadays the first thing she does in the morning is to scroll through all her work messages and emails.
“I don’t think I have the right to live and not do something that I think [can successfully solve a problem],” she tells ISRAEL21c.
For years she had her sights on the issue of water consumption and conservation in multifamily properties in the United States.
Esther Altura set her sights on the problem of water wastage in multifamily US dwellings. Photo by Noam Chen for ISRAEL21c
Because of the way the plumbing infrastructure is installed, property owners never know how much water each individual unit is using. Tenants don’t know the true cost of their water
consumption because their water bills are included as part of the rent or equally divided among the tenants regardless of usage.
The result is that there is no incentive for tenants to conserve water, and no one takes notice of leaks or overuse of water, Altura said.
She and her son combined his knowledge as a hardware specialist and her expertise in real estate and as a software specialist, and after numerous home tests of different models came up with their design for a smart localized water meter device.
“My son is a product designer and has a very creative mind; he thinks outside of the box. He understood we needed something that was inexpensive,” said Altura.
Existing smart water meters do not fit the very different needs of multifamily building owners and managers, she said.
Just before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, they launched a pilot program for the meter developed through their DrizzleX startup.
Placed at individual usage points within residential units, the smart meter provides transparency on water usage in real time, she said.
The individual water usage data it collects and stores also speeds up the process of pinpointing and alerting for leaks and identifies possible misuse. It also enables billing tenants for the water they actually use, since it is a smart sub-metering solution, she said.
The petite Esther Altura has an outsized influence on water management. Photo by Noam Chen for ISRAEL21c
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, almost 13 percent of water waste is due to leaks, she said. Altura also asserts that about 30% of water usage in multifamily properties is waste due to the indifference of tenants, adding up to $8 billion per year.
Americans’ daily rate of water consumption …….