Several years ago, during the height of the California drought, Archbishop Mitty High School sophomore Adarsh Ambati was heading to school when he realized the neighbor’s sprinklers were running in the rain. At the time, his own yard was brown because his parents were trying to conserve water. Ambati wanted a middle ground where homeowners could maintain some sort of landscaping without wasting water.
So, Ambati designed a system that can serve an entire community, costs about $50 to build, and uses a Raspberry Pi – a credit-card sized computer – to look at soil moisture, check the weather, and then post information to Twitter telling neighbors when to turn sprinklers on or off to save the most water. For his work, Ambati won the hardware project category at Coolest Projects USA. He was also recently featured in The MagPi, a magazine that focuses on all things related to the Raspberry Pi computer. Ambati’s goal for the system was to develop something that was low cost and could be used by entire neighborhoods.
“I think the coolest part about it is the Twitter functions,” Ambati said. “I spent a lot of time figuring out how it saves water, not just on a per home basis, but on a community basis.”
To test his prototype, Ambati enlisted the help of 10 homeowners in Almaden Valley. Finding neighbors willing to use the new system proved difficult, but those who signed on were happy they did. In just two months, Ambati found his pilot group saved about 50,000 gallons of water. Looking at local water costs, which are $0.007 cents per gallon, Ambati calculated each homeowner could save at about $209 a year. If the same system was applied to the entire Almaden Valley, homeowners in the community could save about 390 million gallons of water and $2-4 million a year, giving the local water supply – and their pocketbooks – a significant break.
Ambati, who is a member of the San José Youth Advisory Council, is in the process of sharing his prototype with elected officials to see if a similar system could be applied to green space at local city parks and public schools. When he is not designing water-saving systems, this Monarch is an active member of the Mitty Advocacy Project, where he advocates for laws that concern the environment.
Read more about Ambati here in the MagPi: bit.ly/2lBCqxT.