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Modern Metering Adoption At Smaller Public Water Systems

As with most things in life, there are those water utilities that have and those that don’t. According to the EPA, less than 3% of the 150,110 operational public water systems (PWS) in the U.S. serve more than 10,000 people. And those 4,500 systems serve 79% of the population. Not that being big means living trouble free. Many of these water authorities serve cities plagued by under investment over decades in their water systems. And yet with large rate-bases comes the means to spread the investment in modern technology across many households and water consumers.   

Historically, it’s been a lot harder to invest in new technology for the other 105,110 PWSs who average just 475 consumers per system. And yet advances in metering technology is making it more efficient than ever before for small PWSs to embrace advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).

According to the Water Research Foundation (WRF), a scientific organization dedicated to the advancement of the water industry, “As advanced metering technologies become more feature-rich, reliable, and economical, they present greater opportunities and compelling reasons for utility managers to upgrade their meter reading systems.”

Case Study: Auburndale Public Utilities Department

AMI and smart metering are becoming more popular because of their ability to save costs, improve ratepayer experiences, and more. Smart meters are capable of collecting water consumption data, rate of flow, indicate reserve flows, and produce alarms automatically when readings warrant it. And with small systems often supported by a skeleton crew of multi-tasking managers, modern metering technology can provide benefits such as extended low flow accuracy and longer service life by reducing mechanical bearing friction to lessen the maintenance load.

One smaller public water system that has benefited from AMI is the Auburndale Public Utilities Department. Located in Auburndale, Florida, the utility serves approximately 11,700 residential and 1,100 water customers.

In 2016, the Public Utilities Department saw a need to upgrade aging infrastructure across its water system. The city’s water meters and endpoints had provided many years of reliable service, and it was an opportune time to investigate how more advanced technology could benefit the utility and its customers. 

To explore new technology options, Auburndale Public Utilities Department leaders spoke with numerous metering manufacturers over the course of several months. They ultimately chose a managed solution from Badger Meter, combining the BEACON® Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) software suite with proven ORION® Cellular communication to deliver a simple, yet powerful, end-to-end solution. In addition, residential Recordall Model 25 Disc Series meters and E-Series Ultrasonic meters in 1.5- and 2-inch sizes were installed.

The BEACON® AMA managed solution, enabled by ORION Cellular endpoints, has greatly increased efficiencies for Auburndale. Because cloud-based software suite uses existing cellular networks, it does not require infrastructure or continued maintenance. Now, the Public Utilities Department receives daily, 15-minute interval water usage data, rather than monthly. This helps the team detect and address leaks faster than ever before and devote more time to other utility and customer service projects.

But it isn’t just utilities that are benefiting from the advent of smart metering. By providing more data at faster rates and in easy to compute ways, smart meters and AMI also benefit customers by providing more transparency around costs and consumption. And this becomes critically important in smaller systems where each consumer shoulders more of the burden for using water efficiently.

With the new water metering system in place, Auburndale Public Utilities Department customers now have more hands-on access to their water usage. The BEACON AMA solution includes the EyeOnWater®app, which allows water customers to see their water usage in real-time and set alarms when it has reached a certain level. As a result, the utility has seen a reduction in the time spent managing customer questions.

As WRF notes, “Utility managers who could not justify such systems in the past should periodically reevaluate their feasibility and benefit to water system operations and customer service.” Piloting a handful of smart meters or simply exploring the specific advantages AMI can bring to your operations with a technology provider may be the first small step toward great savings, both in time and dollars.

Article originally appeared on WaterOnline.com. View here.