Launch Slideshow

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Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging

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    Advanced metering infrastructure costs about the same as mobile data-collection, says Project Manager Tony Lindgren of Tacoma Water in Washington, who's studying whether his department should upgrade to a fixed-network system to improve billing and leak detection. “Plus, when you have a fixed network, you can get the daily or hourly reads that benefit the system even more.” Photo: Tacoma (Wash.) Public Utilities

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    When zero water consumption is recorded over a 24-hour period, these Badger Meters Inc. transponders send a leak code to employee laptops equipped with radio-frequency receivers. Photo: The Consolidated Utility District of Rutherford County, Tenn.

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    Converting to a wireless system allowed the Zachary (La.) Public Works Department to bring meter-reading in-house, saving $75,000 annually. Photo: City of Zachary, La.

“We've cut our reading times in half, along with about $75,000 a year by not having to use a reading service,” says Public Utility Director Chris Davezak. The system also detects leaks and potential meter tampering.

WHEN YOU JUST CAN'T GET THERE

Physically vast or hard-to-reach service areas like the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority's lend themselves to fixed-network systems that have the additional benefit of facilitating systemwide monitoring.

“We have one island where the walk-around reader had to wait from one to three hours for a ferry to read 95 meters,” says Information Technology Director Carl Brewster.

The authority has been overhauling its equipment since 2006 in a $10 million project scheduled to be finished by 2011 based on graduated rate increases. More than 45,000 customers are getting all-new meters with registers that can be read using mobile, handheld, and fixed-network data collectors.

Neptune Technology Group Inc.'s automatic reading and billing system uses Hexagram Inc.'s STAR technology to detect leaks, reverse flow, and tampering. “We've been notifying our customers of leaks as we install those meters, and that's been a great benefit for us from a public relations as well as a conservation standpoint,” says Brewster. “That data will be made available to customers via our Web site so they'll be able to monitor their consumption.”

The authority contracted out installation for the first two phases of implementation, but then brought the work in-house. The decision enabled field service representatives to take ownership of the project and realize that their jobs entail more than just reading meters.

Twenty-six employees working out of three offices used to be required to track water use. Although the technology isn't being used to eliminate positions, several field service representatives have retired without having to be replaced. Even though several more are expected to retire over the next few years, the system has freed the remaining employees to work on key activities — audits, conservation efforts, and leak detection — for which the authority previously couldn't spare them.

—Talend is a freelancer and founder of Write Results Inc., based in West Dundee, Ill.

Measuring conservation

Using advanced metering infrastructure to benchmark water use.

Southern California's Cucamonga Valley Water District continually expands its automated meter reading (AMR) capability. Most recently, the district — which serves 200,000 customers through 49,000 connections in Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Ontario, and Upland — is deploying a fixed network that involves ratepayers in conservation efforts.