How Accurate Is Your Water Balance?

July 12, 2010
[WaterWorld Online - July 2010] Does your most recent water balance accurately reflect your system today? Do you use it to guide your daily operational and maintenance decisions? If you answered no to either question, then a two-way, fixed-network, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system could help...

By Dean Slejko

Does your most recent water balance accurately reflect your system today? Do you use it to guide your daily operational and maintenance decisions?

If you answered no to either question, then a two-way, fixed-network, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system could help. While one-way, automated meter reading (AMR) systems communicate only from the meter to the utility, the latest generation of AMI systems allows communication to the meter as well as from it, providing the data utilities need to really understand how their water systems are operating.

The key feature of two-way water AMI systems is the ability to take a synchronized reading of all system meters. This is accomplished when the utility sets all systems clocks to the same time and then signals for a meter reading.

Network-wide, time-synchronized readings provide the major input and output measurements for a system water balance that determines how much water flowing into the system is actually getting to customers. This is an important development because it allows the utility to ascertain how much water is being lost to various causes such as leaks or theft.

Typically, water utilities perform a system balance by reviewing the last year's worth of data. The drawback to this approach is that it relies on historical data to try to solve today's challenges. This is analogous to driving a car while only looking in the rear-view mirror. Obtaining a regular, time-synchronized snapshot of the entire water system helps utilities identify and isolate where to focus their resources to maximize revenues and reduce problems. For example, if the system-wide balance indicates substantial losses, the utility could obtain synchronized readings for each pressure zone to determine the losses within that area. Additional investigation could then identify specific actions to pursue.

Performing a regular system water balance is the first step to help increase billings, reduce losses, and plan maintenance and replacement activities. Today's two-way fixed network AMI systems give utilities the ability to take that first step.

About the Author
Dean Slejko is the Product Marketing Manager responsible for water utility solutions for Aclara, one of the industry's leading providers of AMI and AMR to water utilities. He has 12 years of experience marketing system solutions for power management and process control applications. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and a Master of Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University.

WaterWorld Online - July 2010

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