RALEIGH, NC, JAN 17, 2019 -- The City of Cedar Park, located near Austin, Texas, is changing the way it communicates with its water customers. Instead of putting an invoice in the mail and taking questions over the phone, the city has upgraded its system with technology that puts customers in the driver's seat.
"We saw very clearly that we needed to be able to communicate better with our customers about how much water they were using and the impact on their monthly bill," said Cedar Park Utility Programs Manager Nanette McCartan.
Prior to upgrading, the City of Cedar Park used automated drive-by meter reading (AMR), so their water consumption data was limited to two monthly reports. Without robust analytics, it was challenging to explain to customers why their bill may fluctuate month-to-month.
In 2017, the City of Cedar Park deployed Sensus' Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) solution to 23,000 municipal water customers. The solution included Sensus smart meters and the FlexNet® communication network, a two-way system that allows city staff to remotely monitor water usage and increase billing accuracy. The utility also implemented the Sensus Analytics solution and opted into the Customer Portal to streamline customer communication and water usage data.
Through the portal, McCartan said Cedar Park customers can gain a better understanding of their water usage—even in one hour increments — before receiving their bill. They can also see factors that cause variation in monthly usage and even create customizable alerts for any sort of unusual water activity.
"We found that the Sensus customer portal was the perfect option for us," said McCartan. "It is very user friendly and customers can access it from any mobile device, a laptop or a desk top."
Now one year into the portal, Cedar Park is up to 9 percent active users. "When we talked to other utilities, we were told that
10 percent adoption was excellent, so we feel really good about where we are today," said McCartan. "All of our marketing and education on this is paying off."
The data also enables the city to alert customers to a potential leak, which can save money and prevent property damage. So far, utility representatives have contacted more than 300 customers about potential water leaks.
"The system allows our team to detect continuous flow very quickly, sometimes within a few hours," said McCartan. "This helps us catch leaks early, before damage occurs or bills increase significantly. A few times, customers didn't believe they had a problem — but later they called us back to thank us."
To estimate daily losses, the team at Cedar Park will soon use the solution to compare citywide meter reads to the production of their water treatment plant. It's just one example of how Cedar Park can leverage Sensus Analytics for long-term system planning and upgrades.
"Analytics is an invaluable customer service tool. Every day we're learning something new, and that's going to impact every aspect of our business," said McCartan.