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Utility increases employee safety & improves meter reads
Providing clean drinking water to its citizens since the early 1800s, Nashville’s city government has a deep-rooted history in the water industry. Today, Nashville Metro Water Services (MWS) serves more than 191,000 customers in Nashville and surrounding counties.
These numbers continue to grow. Each year, more people are drawn to “Music City,” coming not only for the more-than-200-year tradition of great music, but also for the community’s stellar universities, unique history and vibrant culture. Quality service and operational efficiency are critical as MWS welcomes these newcomers.
For the technicians at MWS, poison ivy and bug bites often were part of the job, especially in rural farmlands of the utility’s northern territory. To reach some of the more remote areas, technicians routinely walked through fields and drove in hazardous road conditions to manually read meters.
“Manual meter reading and data input can be subject to error, and re-reading meters was costly,” said Gary Ragland, customer service assistant manager of field activities, MWS. “We knew there had to be a better way to provide our customers with accurate data while reducing risks for our technicians and improving efficiency in the field.”
In addition to hazards in the field, the meters often were covered with overgrown plants, dirt and other debris. This made reading (and sometimes re-reading) the meters difficult and time-consuming.
MWS collected meter reads once a month, so the utility relied on customers to report an unusually high water bill before investigating the source of a leak or a billing inaccuracy.
“Customer service is our priority,” Ragland said. “We wanted to proactively alert them to potential water leaks, rather than wait for a call reporting a spike in water use.”
A Sensus customer since the early 1950s, MWS turned to its partner for a smart water network in an effort to improve its operations. The utility deployed SR II water meters and the FlexNet communication network. The utility now collects real-time data from the field to improve leak detection.
With Sensus technology, MWS now collects meter data remotely and has reduced the cost per meter read by $0.95, saving $181,000 per month. At the same time, the utility has improved working conditions for technicians, who no longer have to face the insects and other routine discomforts of manually reading meters in the field.
MWS has more insight into water use than ever before with the real-time water use data. When one local business reported unusually high water bills during the summer, the utility immediately identified the source of the problem: a sprinkler system that was turning on when it was not needed.
“With Sensus’ technology we can identify issues, such as leaks, in a timely manner without making multiple trips,” Ragland said. “This benefits our customers and our employees.”
With a smart water network, MWS can catch leaks before a customer’s bill soars. If the utility receives an alert that a customer has high or continuous water usage, a customer service representative immediately picks up the phone and notifies them. Nashville’s customers know they can count on the utility to look out for their interests.
A scalable solution, the FlexNet system will grow with MWS. As more people move to the vibrant Nashville community, the utility is ready to serve an expanding customer base safely, efficiently and effectively.
“We are proud to utilize state-of-the-art technology to help us better serve our customers and manage our resources,” Ragland said. “We know we have a partner in Sensus.”