Water Company Improves Customer Service, Conservation with AMR

South Mesa Water Co. recently installed an advanced automated meter reading (AMR) system that could be integrated with new water meters it was adding throughout its service area as part of its meter replacement program. South Mesa implement Mueller Systems’ Hot Rod™ AMR system, which includes the Street Machine™ Mobile Data Collector, and EZ Reader™ Software.

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Operational efficiency and conservation are increasing in focus among water utilities across the United States, but they are especially important to Calimesa, Calif.-based South Mesa Water Company, which provides drinking water to residents in Calimesa and the City of Yucaipa.

The South Mesa Water Co. recently installed an advanced automated meter reading (AMR) system that could be integrated with the new water meters it was adding throughout its service area as part of its meter replacement program. South Mesa implement Mueller Systems' Hot Rod™ AMR system, which includes the Street Machine™ Mobile Data Collector, and EZ Reader™ Software.

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Meter readers for South Mesa Water Co. pull up a route map generated by the Hot Rod AMR System on their laptop. The route map has blue dots that represent each meter along the route that needs to have its data collected. If a leak or backflow alarm is detected, the blue dot turns red, prompting the meter readers to stop and further investigate the issue.

The system's data management tools automatically collect meter reads and instant data logging alarms as a meter reader drives along a selected route, while providing progress screens and route maps that display collected readings and meters that still need to have their data collected. Meter locations are graphically represented on route maps by blue icons that disappear as soon as readings are collected.

If a leak, reverse flow, no flow or tamper alarm is received, the corresponding icon will turn a different color, immediately prompting the meter reader to proactively approach customers about possible leaks or other service related issues.

Once the installation of the AMR system was complete, South Mesa quickly saw results. According to the company's general manager, Dave Armstrong, the amount of time needed to collect monthly meter readings was immediately reduced.

"It used to take us approximately six days each month to manually collect readings using two meter readers," said Armstrong. "However, with Hot Rod in place, we are now able to collect all of our readings in less than one day using only one meter reader. The time we save as a result of this new found efficiency gives us the added bandwidth needed to focus on other projects."

Information provided through the system's features — particularly consumption profiling and 170-day storage of meter readings — has helped South Mesa improve customer service in a variety of ways.

"The amount of information provided by the system is unbelievable," Armstrong said. "If a customer calls with a billing inquiry, the service representative can access their six month usage history and talk through it with them or provide a printed copy to answer their questions and help them understand how their usage behavior affects their bills."

The system's instant data logging alarms are also leveraged to alert customers of potential household water leaks.

"Leak alarms that we receive through the system are added to our 'leak list,' a list of accounts that we send letters to in order to inform them that they may have a water leak on their property," said Armstrong. "Customers really appreciate this proactive approach, as it shows that we take conservation very seriously and that we are trying to help them save money while addressing potential problems before they become service issues."

South Mesa Water Co. credits its use of AMR along with its meter replacement program and recent rate increases on high-rate users for helping it to reduce water usage in its service area by more than 22 percent.

"Mueller® is an exhibitor at the ACE® '12 event and can be found at Booth No. 1900"

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