Why smart water networks save time and money

Thu, 2016-09-08 12:15 -- Doug Peeples

Smart water, electric and gas meter networks provide a number of advantages for both utilities and customers. And there are even more benefits that might not occur to those of us outside the utility industry. For Nashville's Metro Water Services (MWS) employees, manual meter reading in the rural areas of its territory could be challenging, as described in the story below.  But what should really get the attention of your municipal or local utility is how much money a smart water network solution can reduce meter reading costs as well as the risks faced by the people doing the work. — Doug Peeples

 Just for a moment imagine you're out in farm country reading water meters for Nashville's Metro Water Services (MWS). What would be a straightforward job could often present several obstacles, including poison ivy, insect bites, meters covered in plants and dirt and other problems that made the work difficult enough to take far more time than it should. Add to that the possibility of error in manual meter readings.

"Manual meter reading and data input can be subject to error, and re-reading meters was costly," according to Gary Ragland, MWS customer service assistant manager for field activities. The utility had always read its meters once a month and depended on customers to alert them to overly high water bills before someone was sent to check for leaks or inaccurate billing.

As Ragland said, "Providing excellent service is our priority. We wanted to proactively alert our customers to potential water leaks, rather than wait for a call reporting a spike in water use."

At that point MWS turned to Council Lead Partner Sensus, which it had been working with for decades, for a smart water network solution.

By adding new Sensus water meters and its FlexNet communication system, the utility now remotely gathers meter data, knows far more than it did about water use and can find water leaks and other problems before customers are billed.

And... substantial savings
MWS provides water for more than 191,000 people in Nashville and surrounding counties. Because the new Sensus network reduced the cost of individual meter reads by 95 cents, the utility now saves $181,000 each month.

The other bonus? MWS technicians are working more safely because they're exposed to far fewer hazards and discomfort.

The Smart Cities Readiness Guide...
To learn more about how to use smart technology to ensure a sustainable and economical water supply, click to the Readiness Guide chapter on Water and Wastewater. You will learn about the importance of safeguarding water supplies, using and monitoring it efficiently and other relevant topics.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.