Mohawk Valley Water Authority solves water-loss problems

The Mohawk Valley Water Authority has solved a water loss problem of about 2 billion gallons by rethinking its metering strategy.

Mar 19th, 2004

UTICA, NY, March 15, 2004 -- The Mohawk Valley Water Authority has solved a water loss problem of about 2 billion gallons by rethinking its metering strategy.

Mohawk Valley Water Authority serves a population of 126,000 people through 38,440 service connections in the Mohawk Valley area of New York. Of these, 700-800 connections serve commercial and industrial users.

In 1999 the Water Authority produced a total 7.4 billion gallons of water, yet the volume billed to customers was only 5.4 billion gallons. The shortfall represented a water loss of approximately 2 billion gallons or 27% of the total amount produced.

While some of the unaccounted-for water was attributable to fire fighting, hydrant flushing and other unmetered authorized users, a significant amount of water was thought to be lost through meter inaccuracy.

The Challenge

By 2001 the unaccounted-for water within the service area increased to 35%, resulting in an increased focus on revenue recovery. The Water Authority conducted a review of the system which revealed that the majority of the large meter services ranged from 15 to
71 years of age and that limited meter maintenance programs were in place for large meters.

The Solution

Mohawk Valley Water Authority personnel consulted with Neptune to:

• Determine the accuracy of the meters in each service;
• Identify the meters that required immediate attention - damage, theft, misapplication, etc.;
• Prioritize meters based on revenue and payback;
• Implement and develop targeted revenue enhancement programs.

Neptune conducted a SEER® (Statistical Evaluation for Enhancement of Revenue) analysis on 30 meters identifying a potential saving of $48,000 with an overall payback of 2.3 years. Many of the meters analyzed by SEER identified meters that were misapplied, required maintenance or replacement, and required right sizing.

By way of background, SEER is an analytical tool developed and patented by Neptune. SEER was developed using actual test data conducted across North America on over 10,000 large meters of various manufacturers, meter types, and ages of meters.

These test results were analyzed using multiple linear regression; therefore, the SEER tool can determine meter accuracy to within a 95% confidence interval without the need to perform an on-site test of the meter.

Based on Neptune's recommendation using the results from SEER, the Water Authority targeted 22 of the 30 large meters for replacement to serve as a pilot to justify the continuation of the large meter changeout and to verify the reliability of SEER.

When the pilot was completed, the increase in revenue captured paid for the 22 meters in four months - exceeding the conservative payback predicted by the SEER analysis. The results were so impressive that another 60-80 meters were analyzed with SEER and identified for changeout. The payback from the replacement of these meters was realized in one year.

Mohawk Valley Water Authority has already seen some of the benefits of the large meter changeout and is excited about completing the changeout over the next couple of years.

The increased revenue from the changeout will be included in the capital budget to pay-off meter changeout expenses and operational expenses, and to purchase new meters. Additionally the funds may be used to finance further changeouts of intermediate and small meters.

Conclusion

Words of advice from the Water Authority to other utilities considering a changeout program include the following:

• Hire outside help. It is often difficult to implement these programs with internal resources and meet budgeted time frames.
• Use reputable, high quality companies for the changeout project.
• Retain records (possibly digital photos of the old registers) showing the final read of each meter to be replaced to address customer concerns of increased billing.
• Properly size meters for each application.
• Plan the implementation schedule and understand how it ties in with the billing cycle and cash flow.
• Maintain proper communication with customers throughout the project, advising them of the features and benefits of the changeout as well as the potential for higher water bills due to the increased accuracy of the new meters.

For more information from the provider, Neptune Technology Group Inc., visit http://www.neptunetg.com/ or call 1-800-645-1892.

For more information from the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, visit http://www.mvwa.us/.

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