Elster AMCO’s evolution AMI empowers water utilities in conservation efforts

In North America, we take our water supply for granted and automatically expect to have an endless supply of water available for all of our daily activities.

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In North America, we take our water supply for granted and automatically expect to have an endless supply of water available for all of our daily activities. We find it difficult to imagine turning on a faucet, trying to flush a toilet or running a washing machine without having an ample water supply. Warning cries have been heard from social and environmental groups, but with little response until recently.

As water consumption, populations and droughts increase, and supplies of fresh, potable water decrease, more attention is being given to water conservation. Although there are many ways in which individuals can engage in water conservation, (watering lawns during morning or dusk hours to more efficient shower heads), water utilities can make a significant difference and impact by evolving to AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure). Smart metering with Elster AMCO evolution AMI provides the features and benefits necessary to support utility-wide conservation efforts.

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Unlike the electric utility industry where legislation exists, such as the Environmental Protection Act of 2005, which has mandated regulators to take a fresh look at time-based rate alternatives or time-of-use (TOU) billing, the water industry has not had any similar major policy initiatives. However, TOU rate structures in the water industry can promote conservation by creating monetary incentives for utility customers to shift usage to off-peak hours for watering lawns, washing cars, etc. During drought or extreme temperature conditions, water utilities can provide customers with better rates if they engage in these activities during cooler portions or the day, ensuring the water is used more effectively as it is not evaporated as rapidly. This can be done while concurrently empowering the utility to effectively enforce water restrictions. Previously, no true conservation method existed. The utility can also benefit from see increased savings, as rates can be aligned during peak hours, where pumping demand can be higher, thereby curbing usage to off peak hours where electricity rates are lower. Pilot and on-going programs at various electric utilities through North America have provided tangible good results - customers reduce demand when prices were high or rebates were offered, and customers prefer time-based rates after experiencing them first-hand.

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Time based rates are also well accepted in other industries and services including the hotel rooms, airline tickets, and cellular/wireless. Until now, water utilities have not had the ability to reap the benefits of generating TOU billing because a true AMI system, utilizing an intelligent device, had not existed in the water industry. The development and availability of Elster AMCO’s evolution AMI system now allows any water utility to create up to six different time based rates structures within their system and have the usage in each rate structure reported back for every user in the system. Utilizing a fixed, mesh network topology, the water utility is able to manage the benefits of TOU remotely from the head end software.

Consumers are not generally aware of their water consumption nor water usage costs for several reasons. The cost of water in North America is less expensive than the rest of the world (approximately $2.50 per 1,000 gallons on average). Several studies on consumer behavior and habits have revealed an increase in conservation when consumers are made aware of their spending/usage habits. This has been proven in the personal banking or credit card industry, where user who can regularly received updates on their accounts, have greater awareness of their spending habits, allowing them the ability to curb, budget, or maintain their spending. Additionally, the companies offering these services are generally viewed more favorably in terms of customer satisfaction. Elster AMCO Water has applied these same principles in the development of evolution AMI. Provide water utility customers with the ability to receive a “snapshot” of their water usage/consumption, and the result would be an increase in consumer conservation.

Evolution AMI provides utilities with the tools they need through a web-based system, to view and track water consumption. The water utility is empowered to go a step further with an available in-home display called evoTrak, which can offer on demand, daily, monthly or yearly consumption intervals to the end user. Two-way communications capability with evolution AMI, not only allows the user to obtain usage on demand but it also alerts the user of possible leaks within their home, in real time! Utilizing evolution’s Smart Leak algorithm, the end user, as well as the utility, can be made aware of residual or burst leaks, within a home. The information can be deployed to the end user via an in-home display, e-mail, or SMS message for the ultimate in convenience and awareness.

Residential and system leaks are also a major conservation concern for water utilities in North America. The evolution AMI Smart Leak system allows water utilities to know when residual or burst leaks occur in real time, as compared to traditional AMR systems that may not gather the data until the leak has been occurring for 30 days. A residual leak in the residences of a utility’s end users (from a faucet head, garden hose or bathroom leak) results in wasted water and a real-time notification of the leak is essential to conserve water and reduce costs.

The evolution AMI Smart Leak includes not only residual leak detection but burst leak detection as well. If a utility should detect a burst leak at a residence via a real time alarm, evolution AMI offers another advanced, smart metering option: remote valve actuation or evoValve. This feature allows the utility to shut off water to a residence from the head end software at the touch of a button, proactively preventing a possible flood situation at the customer’s home.

The AWWA reports that there are some 250,000 to 300,000 main breaks per year. In a water distribution application, burst leak detection, with real-time notification, can empower utilities to respond immediately, preventing ten to hundreds of thousands gallons of wasted water.

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AMR technologies in the water industry have provided increased meter reading efficiency, but AMR has not been able to empower a water utility with the ability to increase widespread efforts toward water conservation. Utilizing breakthrough technology provided by evolution AMI’s Time-of-Use capabilities, in-home displays, real-time leak alarms and remote valve actuation, enables water utilities to have a complete water metering solution that reduces expenditures, increases profits, enhances customer service and drives conservation efforts in their service areas.

About the Author:

Bruce A. Bharat
Product Marketing Manager - AMR/AMI
Elster AMCO Water, Inc
Tel: (352) 368-4669
E-Mail: bruce.bharat@us.elster.com

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