Making the Case for Smart Water

Nov. 9, 2019
Maximizing IoT for smart utilities and cities with Itron and Cisco’s Value Calculator for Water AMI.

Bobbi Harris founded Smart Water, Smart City consulting because she felt that water had been left out of the Smart Cities conversation for too long.

“A city can never, in my opinion, claim to be a Smart City if they don't have a smart water infrastructure,” she said.

At Itron Utility Week in Florida in October 2019, Harris was on hand to discuss her work with cities, technology companies, and utilities to solve challenges through innovations in technology.

“From a technology perspective, great technologies are coming out every day, thankfully. A lot of investment is going in, around the world, on how to solve water challenges, and how to use technology that has been proven, from an electric side, or from a streetlighting side, or those telecommunications infrastructure sides. Thankfully, there was an opportunity for me to make those connections with people, to share knowledge around the world, and to, hopefully, move the utilities forward with infrastructure upgrades, because ultimately, that's the goal,” she said.

Today’s utility challenges are many, Harris admitted.

“Clearly, utility challenges start at the consumption and operational efficiency level. So, at a utility, even if conservation is not number one for them, simply because they're not in a water stressed area, they may still be challenged to manage operational efficiencies, because they can't afford to waste what they just cleaned. There is a connection between water and energy, it's not just 40 percent of the water wasted, it's 40 percent of the electricity that it took to pump it all that way, or to clean it, or the chemicals to process it, the man power, all of those things. So even in a non-stressed area, water loss actually represents a big operational challenge for utilities,” Harris said.

An AMI system can help solve these challenges by leveraging insights and actions from data beyond just metering and billing.

“As we talk with water utilities, they have to communicate the benefits of AMI to a lot of stakeholders. It's not just selling it within the water utility, that the AMI is needed, that the upgrades are needed, it's selling it within the mayor's office, within the city council, within the regulator, and to other consumer advocates. So, if there's a tool they can use to quickly say, ‘Here's our operational data, here are the challenges we’re facing , let's use this tool to see the potential savings and benefits we can gain from implementing smart technology,’ that can go a long way in helping utilities understand and start to quantify the benefits of AMI," Harris said.

The Water AMI Value Calculator from Itron and Cisco is a series of eight questions about a water utility — from the size of the system and meters deployed to the expected upgrades to be completed. The free and simple online calculator then uses this information along with calculations derived from decades of experience to give a snapshot of the amount of money a utility could save by upgrading to AMI — through benefits such as identifying and reducing water leaks to improving billing accuracy.

“If I'm the water public works person, and I want to put in an AMI system, having access to a tool like this makes it easier to sit in front of my mayor and my city council and say, ‘Let's talk through this.’ With the tool, the utility person can educate those key stakeholder groups in their community on the real benefits of adopting automation technology in a simple, relatable way,” Harris said.

The AMI Value Calculator for Water also generates potential cost savings based on reduced labor for routine and special meter read and call center labor to give a total annual savings snapshot. This snapshot can then be used to build a case for deploying AMI in cities and towns of all sizes. A user can also tweak the results if needed, to allow for future growth in a service area.

“The Water Value Calculator tool from Itron and Cisco, to me, is something that is valuable because it is built on real utility data,” Harris said. “It starts that conversation, and it helps [a utility] really quantify why they're even thinking about implementing an AMI system.”

CTA: In just two minutes with the AMI Value Calculator, a utility can find out how much water and money they could be saving with AMI. Learn more at https://go.itron.com/WaterWorldCiscoAMIValueCalculator.

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