May 24, 2021
Update on AMI Deployment for the City of Merced, California
The Insider Blog / 4 min read
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May 24, 2021
The Insider Blog / 4 min read
Since project completion, the City of Merced has reported numerous benefits that are positively impacting operations. Specifically, BEACON® Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) has given the city access to a greater amount of data to make informed decisions and manage their water infrastructure.
“We use BEACON AMA and the EyeOnWater® Consumer Engagement tool daily, whether in the public works office, as part of the finance team or in the field,” said Johnnie Baptista, Public Works Manager for the City of Merced.
Due to extreme drought conditions, the city continues to focus on identifying water waste, performing timely repairs in the field and explaining how the usage translates to customer bills to encourage conservation. Utility leaders have gained invaluable confidence thanks to the accuracy of meter reads and are able to verify customer use patterns in BEACON AMA. With this data, the utility can identify irrigation patterns, including overwatering and leaks. This helps with water conservation efforts, as well as reporting and revenue.
Additionally, customers are encouraged to sign up for EyeOnWater to monitor their own water use. The utility says over 1,400 customers have signed up and appreciate the ability to see their water usage in up to 15-minute intervals to identify excess waste, cut costs and conserve water.
“Customers are really surprised by how much water they are actually using. Before EyeOnWater was available, customers couldn’t see up-to-date usage information—and it was out of sight, out of mind,” said Leah Brown, Water Conservation Coordinator for the City of Merced. “EyeOnWater plays a key role in helping conserve water.”
The data available through BEACON AMA has empowered the utility to make significant improvements within their processes. Field staff use BEACON AMA to verify meter and endpoint numbers at individual addresses to show customers their water usage, especially if there’s a billing concern. Both customers and the utility are taking advantage of leak alerts to be notified at the first sign of a potential problem. This information has been a tremendous help in keeping customer water bills down as leaks are promptly addressed.
“Accuracy and confidence in explaining customer usage patterns have been gained—and all of this information can be verified in BEACON AMA,” Baptista said.
Additionally, BEACON AMA data allows utility employees to monitor the system remotely. If there’s a problem, field members know which address to visit to fix it, rather than wasting time and money searching manually. Field members can then determine if the component has been tampered with or needs further maintenance.
The customer service department has also seen a large improvement in processes, including the ability to assist customers with their usage over the phone. BEACON AMA enables customer service representatives to verify usage and identify leaks or irrigation issues.
When it comes to billing, it’s now much easier for utility team members to download and upload meter reads to verify usage. Verifying a meter read for billing is now in the billing technicians’ hands instead of contacting a water technician. With access to BEACON AMA, the public works team estimates that it saves up to one hour each time a team member researches a possible leak or other water waste incident.
“Previously, we had to go out to the location and download the data to see a data profile, which took time and manpower. Now, all that information and more analytics are available to any staff member in an instant thanks to BEACON AMA,” Baptista said.
Easy access to this data allows the billing department to investigate discrepancies and ensure correct reads. They can also point to EyeOnWater, so individuals can view their actual usage and help figure out what the cause of the excess use might be.
Learn more about the City of Merced’s successful AMI deployment, including their upgrade plan and the benefits they saw immediately upon installation.