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Apana helps companies manage their water usage. (Apana Photo)

Water is becoming increasingly scarce, and a startup based in Bellingham, Wash., has raised $3.5 million to help businesses monitor and cut down on water usage and save money.

Using smart sensors, Apana can look at how much water a building uses and spot inefficiencies. Matt Rose, CEO of Apana, called water “the oil of the 21st century” due to increasing problems with lack of access to clean water. He said his company helps heavy users like grocery stores, hotels, wineries, breweries, cooling tower users and others become “stewards of water.”

Apana CEO Matt Rose

“The best way to think about our product is we are sort of a security system for water consumption,” Rose told GeekWire. “We collect high-resolution data from our sensors, and then we keep an eye on how a building is consuming water. When we catch wasteful patterns, we identify the waste and provide actionable information to front line people.”

Rose said companies can waste a lot of water through things like small leaks that aren’t noticeable until the bill comes. Apana’s system, Rose said, gives customers more immediate information to make decisions.

Kurita Water Industries of Japan led the Series A round for Apana, and other investors include Element 8 of Seattle, Cowles Co. of Spokane and Urban Innovation Fund of San Francisco. In addition to the funding round, Rose said Apana has landed a couple of new customers: Mister Car Wash and Fetzer Vineyards.

Apana’s biggest customer is Costco. Rose said the Issaquah-based retail giant cut water usage by more than 20 percent in the buildings using Apana’s system.

Right now, Apana has 11 employees with two Washington offices in Bellingham and Spokane. Rose said he wants to open a Seattle office in the future, once the company hits its sales goals. In the near term, he expects Apana’s headcount to grow by close to 50 percent.

Rose comes from a background of software development in the healthcare and defense industries. The company’s other co-founder, Frank Burns, has more than 20 years of experience building and maintaining wastewater treatment plants. Rose was brought in to help automate water usage to make it easier to track.

“We noticed most buildings were consuming more water than the levels forecast by the design teams,” Rose said. “We had an opportunity with our customers to either build bigger wastewater treatment plants to handle the increase in volume, or help them manage their water consumption in order to get it down to design levels.”

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