Smart Water Metering

Smart water metering has become increasingly prevalent in water utility roadmaps or strategies as they seek to reduce non-revenue water. The benefits of smart metering are well understood with the last few hurdles often comprising of cost, technology and data management.

The ability to reduce NRW and increase utility revenue to assist with overdue infrastructure upgrades is tremendously valuable. There is general agreement from water industry stakeholders that the business case stacks up and smart meters can have a meaningful contribution towards NRW reduction in Australia by more accurate and timely quantification of actual water usage (and a better understanding of customer side leakage).

There is no single strategy for reducing non-revenue water in Australia and New Zealand since many complex factors contribute to real and commercial losses. However, smart water meters allow the detection and management of some critical components of water loss management.

Firstly, in general, these mechanical meters are not as precise as smart meters leading to unbilled consumption (particularly for low flow volumes). Replacing mechanical meters with smart meters limits the volume of unbilled consumption. Secondly, the avoidance of a manual meter reading process eliminates errors that can occur in the collection and handling of manual data.

AMR or AMI : which one to choose?

Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) is a one-way communication from the water meter to the data collection device. The systems vary in their specifications and can be walk-by, drive-by, or fixed network (some cities will couple AMR data collection with other city-wide services such as rubbish removal). On the other hand, Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI) enables two-way communication over a fixed network between the utility and the smart water meter. It’s a much more powerful system that’s proving its value in some challenging environments, including rural settings.

The Business Case for Smart Water Meters

When embarking on a smart water meter rollout, water utilities seek to understand the benefits of these new technologies and there is often a focus on two types of benefits:

  • Financial benefits – these are typically efficiency related financial benefits to the water utility with the examples such as:
    • Reduction in non-revenue water and customer-side leakage
    • Lower capital expenditure associated with water infrastructure due to better demand management
    • Removal of manual meter reading costs (and associated safety hazards)
    • Improved levels of customer service and better credit management.
  • Non-financial benefits – these largely external to a water utility’s operations and can often be more difficult to quantify. The main non-financial smart water metering benefits are:
    • Enhanced customer experience – improved levels of customer satisfaction from real-time information and notifications (for example, avoid ‘bill shock’ or alert to a customer side leak)
    • Environmental – more improved usage of scarce water resources
    • Policy – implement new tariff structures due to data granularity or minimise customer cut-offs due to payment hardship
    • Societal – can better manage the way water restrictions are used during periods of low supply

The majority of smart water meter business cases focus has almost entirely on the financial benefits, typically expressed as a Net Present Value (NPV) figure. The issue is that limiting the definition of “business case” to solely the financial benefits of a smart water meter rollout only tells half the story. Such a narrow definition misses out on the significant non-financial benefits that smart water metering can provide to customers and the wider community – benefits that can’t necessarily be captured in a spreadsheet, but are nonetheless very real, valuable and important contributors to a positive smart water metering business case and the equitable supply of water.

How can Aqua Analytics help with our smart water meter project?

Many smart water meter projects in Australia and New Zealand involve telecommunications providers, particularly with the growth of Narrowband Internet-of-Things (NB-IoT) and other similar technologies (such as Taggle). Smart water meter solutions are becoming a critical component of intelligent water networks. The interoperability of all these devices, and integration with enterprise systems, allows us to change the way we manage complex buried water networks. If correctly implemented, these smart water meter solutions can contribute towards non-revenue water reduction and infrastructure upgrade deferrals.

Aqua Analytics can help with all aspects of smart water metering projects in Australia and New Zealand – contact us today for more information.