Ohio city demonstrates the advantages of automating meter processes
More utilities are choosing to implement advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) networks due to the ever-growing need to increase efficiency. WWD Managing Editor Elizabeth Lisican recently spoke with Joe Camp, service director for the city of Maumee, Ohio, about how the city has automated its meter reading-to-billing process by linking its meters, distribution sites and control devices in a single data network.
Elizabeth Lisican: Why did the city of Maumee decide to implement an AMI network?
Joe Camp: Maumee is one of the larger business centers in northwest Ohio and our water distribution network has expanded to support the growing number of residents and businesses that call Maumee home. Eventually, our water system reached a size that required our staff to spend excessive amounts of time manually collecting meter readings each billing period. Many of the water meters in our service area also had become inaccurate with age, which led to an increase in billing-related questions from residents that we could not answer due to the limited and potentially inaccurate information we had at our disposal.
We chose to deploy a two-way AMI network ... and replace all water meters in our service area because we wanted to have the efficiencies in place that would allow us to better serve our customers, improve conservation and support the increasing service demands that are inevitable as Maumee’s business population continues to grow.
Lisican: How will this new network impact your customer base?
Camp: One of the primary reasons we chose this particular AMI system is because it will enable us to help our customers better understand their water bills, save money and improve conservation. The system features a portal known as Mi.Data that customers will have the ability to access through their computers, smart phones and any other Web-enabled devices. The portal presents customers with usage data that are collected and stored by the water meter on their property. The information is presented in a format that makes it easy for them to monitor their household or business water usage in near-real time, while also giving them the option to compare their current water usage levels to previous billing periods, set budget and conservation goals and receive automated alerts whenever their household or business water usage begins to exceed the goals they’ve established in the system.
Lisican: How is this new network a positive step toward strengthening your city’s water conservation? What long-term impact do you anticipate?
Camp: Upgrading our water meters and deploying an AMI system will help us to more accurately and efficiently account for all of the water we distribute through our network. New meters will ensure that we’re accurately measuring how much water our customers are using at any given time, and the AMI system will allow us to monitor the entire distribution network and collect all meter readings from the office. Previously, it was difficult for us to notice data patterns that were symptoms of potential leaks because it would take weeks to manually collect meter readings. Essentially, the data was obsolete by the time it made it to the water department. Being able to collect and access meter readings in real time will help to us quickly notice any anomalies that may indicate leaks in the system or other service-related issues.
Essentially, the alerts and advanced monitoring capabilities provided by AMI will help customers better conserve water while enabling the city to measure and reduce the amount of water that is lost through leaks in the system.
Lisican: What else is your department doing to help promote conservation practices and save money?
Camp: Installation of the new meters and the AMI system is currently underway; however, in the meantime, we’ve started a campaign aimed at educating customers on the value of this new technology. The water department is hand-delivering fliers to customers that describe how Mi.Data can help them monitor their water consumption, save money and improve conservation.