Utility uses monitoring system to increase operational efficiency & foster customer relationships
Imagine it is winter in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., and temperatures drop to the low 20s (°F) by sundown. Summery beach weather is nowhere to be seen in this coastal town, and most residents have fled to warmer temperatures until summer returns. Water pipes cannot flock to warmer temperatures, though, and while homeowners are gone, pipes can easily freeze and burst.
If a pipe bursts and floods an unoccupied house, the leak could go unnoticed until a passerby sees water running outside of the home. At this point, the damage is done.
“No one wants to deal with the stress of recovering from water damage,” said Earl Sutton, executive director, Little Egg Harbor Municipal Utilities Authority (LEHMUA). “We’d had enough of our customers’ homes being damaged. We knew we had to do something to help detect issues, like pipe bursts or leaks, and notify customers about them more quickly.”
A Growing Vacation Destination
Little Egg Harbor is located just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. With more than 8,000 households and counting, the seaside town is quickly becoming a popular vacation home destination.
As the township expands, so does the possibility of potentially damaging and expensive scenarios for property owners and the utility to consider. For example, if a pipe bursts or leaks, how long would it take major damage to occur? What if the utility could monitor water consumption in real time? What if data alerted it to a leak or pipe burst?
Sending Messages & Reaping Benefits
With the Sensus FlexNet communication network, answers to these questions are now within LEHMUA’s reach. The utility relies on the FlexNet system to monitor water use and directly alert customers to abnormal consumption patterns via email, text or phone call at any time of day.
In addition to alerts, the utility uses consumption data to:
- Provide more accurate and reliable service;
- Monitor all its 9,000 water meters 24/7;
- Ensure accurate bills; and
- Improve operational efficiency and save water.
Building Trust With Customers
The Sensus technology also empowers LEHMUA to build trust with the people of Little Egg Harbor. For example, the utility saw an unusual spike in one customer’s water consumption last fall—the customer’s daily water use exceeded 1,000 gal. Right away, the customer was alerted to the problem and discovered a toilet that was running. Had the problem persisted, the water bill that month would have been through the roof. The homeowner was extremely grateful for the call.
“With consistent monitoring and communication capabilities, FlexNet makes it possible for us to show that we care,” Sutton said. “Whether it’s a leaky faucet or frozen pipe, at the end of the day, our customers are happy we’re there looking out for them.”
After Superstorm Sandy, LEHMUA relied on the FlexNet network to prioritize relief efforts and quickly restore service to the devastated area.
Standing Tall Against the Storm
The utility knew it needed a solution to alert local homeowners to pipe bursts. Little did it know that FlexNet would also help it overcome a natural disaster.
When Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey Shore in the fall of 2012, many residents suffered devastating property damage or lost their homes entirely. More than 3 ft of water accumulated in the home of Ed Andrews, a 10-year customer of LEHMUA, leaving his water meter submerged.
“While my service was never disrupted, the meter still needed to be replaced,” Andrews said. “Fortunately, the folks at my utility changed out the meter in a timely manner at no cost.”
Using FlexNet to prioritize relief efforts and identify the most heavily impacted areas, LEHMUA was able to replace water meters proactively. The utility addressed problems quickly and efficiently, all while maintaining consistent communication with customers about its restoration efforts.
Technology Built to Last
Because the FlexNet system is scalable, LEHMUA can continue to monitor its customers’ water consumption and alert them of issues for years to come.
“No matter if we experience another hurricane or harsh winter, our customers can rest assured knowing that we will go right to them and address an issue before receiving a complaint,” Sutton said. “We take great comfort knowing that FlexNet will only continue to support the longstanding partnerships we’ve created.”