AMR system helps Santa Fe conserve water

An automatic meter reading system helps the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico, conserve water through leak detection and compliance to water schedules.

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An automatic meter reading system helps the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico, conserve water through leak detection and compliance to water schedules.

City of Santa Fe officials plan to install a citywide automated meter reading (AMR) system FIREFLY0® Radio Water Meter Interface Units within the next three years to help the city manage water conservation efforts.

City officials signed the AMR agreement with Datamatic Ltd. of Plano, Texas, USA after successfully completing a comprehensive pilot program to test the value of its system. During that initial program, a Datamatic system that included 1,000 Firefly units was deployed within the city. The company has been a leading supplier of enterprise meter reading solutions for gas, water and electric utilities worldwide since 1980.

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A handheld laptop can extract data from the Firefly.
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“Santa Fe is committed to water conservation as part of Gov. Richardson’s Drought Mitigation initiative,” according to Ken Kercher, the president and chief executive officer of Datamatic. He explained that the city, faced with frequent periods of drought, searched for an AMR system that could help conserve water through leak detection and compliance to water schedules. “Our flexible AMR collection system and profiling software generates timely reports that easily highlight usage data and leaks,” he said.

The oldest continuous capital in America, Santa Fe, is unique. Its cityscape couples 17th-century family compounds with new, gated developments built on the mountainside. The utility serves more than 27,000 residential customers and nearly 3,000 commercial customers including high water users such as hotels, restaurants, schools and government facilities.

“While having current data is critical, gaining access to meters in Santa Fe is a significant problem,” said City of Santa Fe Finance Director Kathryn Raveling. “Many structures are inaccessible because of the many narrow streets and alleys. We’ve even had difficulty accessing our newest structures because they’re within a gated community or are owned by seasonal residents. Datamatic’s remote meter reading has helped us take on this task while also addressing our water shortage.”

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The Firefly Meter Interface Unit.
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The municipality’s limited water sources and intense growth led to restrictions on water use that can drive up the cost for each gallon. The City of Santa Fe offers innovative programs such as replacing toilets with low flow units and hitting excessive residential and commercial water users with surcharge to increase water availability for all consumers.

How the system works

All Firefly Meter Interface Units archive consumption data at user-definable intervals. For example, when set to record hourly readings, each water Firefly can hold the previous 74.6 days of hourly consumption information. This data, previously unavailable without costly fixed networks or flow monitors, is available at every Firefly-equipped meter.

A handheld or field laptop can extract data from the Firefly. Data is then converted and presented in a graph, spreadsheet or another meaningful format using Datamatic’s patented ProfilePLUS software. This system is used for leak detection, load studies, dispute resolution, meter right-sizing, conservation monitoring and many other applications.

“Water shortages have forced us to be proactive about leak detection,” according to City of Santa Fe Utility Billing Director Dave Schmiedicke. He commented: “During the pilot program, Datamatic’s system enabled us to identify leaks before a great deal of water was lost. In addition, customers began to understand how they could change bad water usage habits. We even had customers thank us for being notified of a minor leak before it became an expensive problem. I look forward to implementing the program throughout Santa Fe, as it will help us conserve water and save our residents money.”

Author’s Note

Jan Thevenet is the vice president of corporate communications for Datamatic Ltd, located in Plano, Texas, USA. For more information, contact her by email at

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