Jul 25, 2008

Colorado Water District Begins MOSAIC AMR Deployment

AMR system will help solve water district's unique conservation and billing challenges

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) in Pagosa Springs, Colo., has commenced its project to install Datamatic’s advanced MOSAIC automated meter reading system throughout its service territory.

Set high in the San Juan Mountains, 300 miles southwest of Denver, PAWSD’s service territory encompasses over 76 sq miles and receives more than 100 in. of snow each year. This makes accessing the water meter nearly impossible and has made it necessary for PAWSD to estimate bills for its 4,800 residential water customers nearly half the year.

According to Customer Service Manager Lisa Dermody, “We’ve never been able to read our residential meters during the winter. So every spring, we’ve had five months of estimated billings to reconcile against that first reading we take in April. This means there are hundreds of bills to adjust, credits to issue and customer calls to handle. But MOSAIC will allow us to bill from actual usage, year-round and thus eliminate that entire ‘catch-up period’ and the additional time spent by staff dealing with the issues caused by estimating customer bills.

“Spring is also when we start finding all of the leaks that have started over the winter. We’re in an area prone to droughts, so we’re extremely conservation-conscious. We’ve never been comfortable with the fact that leaks could go on for months before we’d know about them. Treated water gets wasted and customers have to pay for it. But our MOSAIC system will notify us of leaks quickly. We’re really excited about that. It’s good for the environment and good for our customers.”

MOSAIC is a “mesh” network. This means that all FIREFLY Meter Interface Units (FF) also function as repeaters for the transmissions of other neighboring FFs. Data is transmitted, or “hopped”, from FF to FF toward a gateway, similar to the way someone might jump from rock to rock to cross a river. Transmissions follow any path necessary to efficiently navigate the network, circumventing environmental obstacles along the way. The network “self-heals” and dynamically routes data via an alternate path if a path becomes unavailable.

“MOSAIC’s self-healing mesh capabilities was key to our decision,” Dermody said. “It’s ideal for our service territory. We have mountains, dense forests and heavy snow. Getting line-of-sight between all of our meters and one or more towers was going to be difficult, and very expensive. Thankfully, MOSAIC doesn’t require that. The FIREFLYs use each other to hop around obstacles.”

“All utilities face challenges unique to their geography and climate,'' said Rich Sanders, Datamatic vice president of business development. “We’re thrilled to partner with PAWSD and that MOSAIC is such a decisive solution to their longstanding billing, conservation and deployment challenges.”

PAWSD’s system installation is expected to be completed by October 2008.

“Using a conservative return-on-investment model, we expect the system to pay for itself in less than three years and to give us positive cash flow of $5 to 6 million over the life of the system,” Dermody said. “From an economic standpoint, it’s an excellent decision for us. We’re also investigating the possibility of implementing MOSAIC’s Permalog Acoustic Leak Detection and Remote Shutoff Valve capabilities in the future.”