Iris Connections’ Jack Coots works to revolutionize water-district management
Iris Connections’ Jack Coots works to revolutionize water-district managementThere are 200,000 small water districts in the United States, about 1,200 of which are in the immediate 10-county area including Butte. As a rule, the pumps in these districts are monitored by volunteers, many of whom have little or no experience in the field.
But with so many things to check on—water levels, electricity, chlorine—and regulations requiring up-to-date records, relying on volunteers to physically visit each site is hardly ideal.
Enter Iris Connection, a joint venture between Durham Pump, Chico Electric and iP Solutions, out of Fremont, that incorporated in 2005. With just two full-time employees and not many more part-timers, Iris is a small company with a big ambition: to revolutionize the management of small public water districts.
“Our goal for 2007 is to establish our Northern California client and dealer base, and then in 2008 we hope to begin to move out of California,” said Jack Coots, who is in charge of marketing and development for Iris. Ed Wilcox is the president and CEO.
Coots has worked at Durham Pump—a dealer of pump, water and irrigation systems—since 1981. About six years ago, he said, an idea of creating a centralized monitoring system began to form.
“As general manager of Durham Pump, I was frustrated with the inability to manage resources and people to meet the expectations of our customers,” Coots said. With Iris Connections’ Watchman program, suppliers like Durham Pump can do just that. The software gives water-district managers control of everything from chlorine levels to motor voltage currents to switching a pump from “off” to “on"—all from the comfort (and convenience) of a home computer or laptop.
“It’s flexible,” Coots said. “Most of the time people have to drive out to the pump to deal with it. This allows you to do it remotely.”
Managers who use the Watchman System can log on to the company’s Web site for real-time system readings but can only control the water system—change levels, etc.—only when the program is loaded on their computer. This allows for more security, Coots said. Another nice feature is that Watchman will automatically send an alert (either to a cell phone or through e-mail) if something isn’t working correctly.
“We’re basically a wholesaler,” Coots said. “It’s a benefit for pump dealers because it will help them develop relationships with their clients.” Because the system can notify the dealer as well as the district manager of problems, the pump dealers can be the first responders—because they know what’s going on.
“Our main innovation is that this is a system-wide package,” Coots said. “We have competitors—or, near competitors—who do parts and pieces of what we do. But we’re the only one I know of focused on small, community water systems.”
Iris currently has two clients, both in Butte County. Coots said he expects to have a dozen more by the end of the year. “We have several clients in the pipeline,” he joked.
“We’re striving to be national,” he said. “We hope in five years to be a $60 million company.”