Advanced Metering Hits Full Stride: Managing the Delivery and Use of Water

Following two consecutive years of below-average rainfall, very low snowmelt runoff and the largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history ...

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Following two consecutive years of below-average rainfall, very low snowmelt runoff and the largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history, California recently joined an expanding list of states mandating immediate action to protect their water futures. In Georgia and in the desert Southwest, the same story resonates. As our growing society puts strain on the environment, these events show us undeniably that water resources are not endless. We are approaching the time where every drop of water counts.

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Communities nationwide are mandating water rationing and conservation in order to address issues like ensured access to clean drinking water, growing fire danger, catastrophic crop losses, and harm to urban and rural economies due to development restrictions. These are the first steps in a series to undertake significant social change regarding how people and businesses perceive and use water resources.

As customer service manager for the Cucamonga Valley Water District (CVWD), Darron Poulsen sees firsthand how residents of Southern Californian are coming together to find a better balance between water resources and sustainable usage.

Says Poulsen, "A new trend is emerging in our customer service department. Customers with high bills aren't calling to dispute the charges; they're calling to see what they can proactively do to lower their use."

To that end, water utilities like CVWD are looking to gain a better understanding into consumer consumption behaviors, operational efficiencies, and water loss. They're realizing that access to timely and detailed usage information is key. Water providers are increasingly looking to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technologies to help sustain vital water resources. Itron is answering the call with Water SaveSource™.

Water SaveSource is an advanced metering and monitoring technology designed for the challenges water utilities face. Its technology enables providers to know who is using how much water and when. Water SaveSource identifies where water is being lost, and assists in conservation program management.

"Our original driving factors for purchasing Water SaveSource were conservation and customer service, and those haven't changed. Since deployment, we've discovered further new uses and added functionality in the system, empowering us to even more effectively oversee and manage our delivery and use of water," says Poulsen.

To enable valuable water resource management, water providers need to collect accurate and frequent meter data for precise data logging, a necessary capability to truly understand customer usage patterns. With Water SaveSource, water providers are able to collect meter reads every hour, or even every 15 minutes if desired.

"Once you have this interval data to populate the various software options, there are searches to run, groups that can be created, and monitoring to be done based on customer class. That's when engineering and production got excited. It's grown from a customer-focused tool to management of our whole system," says Poulsen.

With accurate time-sync data logging, water providers are able to pinpoint customer usage and develop different incentive programs with customers to change their consumption. Charging different rates based upon pre-determined time periods can lead to more efficient water usage behaviors.

And, just like energy, there are peak demand times for water. To pump and move water during peak periods is costly for providers. Water SaveSource opens the door to parallel time-of-use programs within the utility to reduce water flows and subsequent energy costs.

Other important aspects to better water management include reducing water lost to leaks, both in the distribution system and in the home. Water SaveSource is proven to be highly useful for real-time detection of water leaks. Detecting in-home leaks avoids high-bill issues and saves water. A Water SaveSource Endpoint monitors and triggers an alert for in-home leaks, such as a leaky toilet. A leak notification can be issued, resulting in proactive customer service and water loss reductions.

The Water SaveSource network can also be leveraged to backhaul distribution system leak detection data. Acoustic sensors incorporated with endpoints continuously monitor distribution systems for the specific noise signatures that even the smallest leaks make. Once detected, an alert is sent to the utility so that the leak can be corrected before becoming significant, saving resources and reducing embedded energy and treatment costs.

Providing customers access to their usage data and associated pricing via Web presentment enables them to better understand their consumption patterns and make informed decisions concerning their usage. Access to usage information also offers a better understanding of their participation in conservation programs.

Conservation programs have been around for a long time, but managing them for effectiveness and identifying abuses has been troublesome. Water SaveSource helps utilities to manage conservation programs by collecting interval data, used to create a baseline of water usage. Once the conservation program is implemented, water usage is measured against the baseline to determine the program's effectiveness. With Water SaveSource, customer usage can be analyzed for program compliance and water abusers can be isolated and tracked.

"Water SaveSource helps us to be conservation consultants to our customers," says Poulsen. "With Water SaveSource, we feel we're armed with a phenomenal tool for bringing real world facts and figures about customer usage straight to their doorsteps."

Water conservation will be an enduring necessity in the 21st century, requiring new approaches to water management, including advanced metering systems. Water SaveSource sets itself apart by introducing more frequent, highly accurate measurement of water consumption, coupled with new analytic capabilities such as leak detection, both under the street and behind the meter. It is foundational technology for enabling and supporting many forms of conservation ranging from reduction of lost water, to time-based pricing to conservation program management.

Monitoring and managing the delivery and usage of water more effectively and efficiently than ever before is paramount in helping to balance the growing demand for water with the diminishing supplies. A sustainable future will demand nothing less. Water SaveSource is available now to ensure sustainability.

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