High Tech Focus
Driven by the need to replace aging, inaccurate water
meters, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) has spent the
past 16 months implementing North America's largest water utility Fixed
Network RF System, working with the team of ABB, United Metering and
This automated meter reading (AMR) project was awarded to
these companies in December of 2001. ABB's $11 million portion of the $36
million, three-year project was for 130,000 new ABB absolute encoder water
meters -- approximately 110,000 residential and 20,000 commercial meters.
WASA's analysis had indicated that its previous base
of residential and commercial meters, many of which were more than 25 years
old, required significant, costly
maintenance. Many of these meters would run slowly and did not always record
the correct usage, making it necessary to depend on estimated readings.
"As part of our ongoing capital improvement program,
we've always viewed this project as an operational excellence
initiative," said Jerry Johnson, WASA general manager. "The revenue improvement we will
see from meter replacement covers the cost of the program. The AMR technology from ABB enables WASA
to both improve our operations and provide better service to our customers in
terms of measurement and billing accuracy and timeliness. The keys to selecting the ABB/United
Metering/Hexagram Team were their past performance on similar environments and
the strength of their technology."
The project began a few months later, focusing on the
residential changeover. All meters were equipped with Hexagram automated meter
reading technology including transmitters. The fixed network data collection
system was also integrated with WASA's customer billing and information
system. United Metering has been managing
the project and installing the new equipment.
As of spring
2003, the residential changeover was complete, and WASA announced the success
in its customer newsletter What's On Tap. It was explained to customers
that they would be able to track their water consumption online or over the
phone, benefiting both sides: "This way, if you suspect there is a leak
lurking somewhere on your property or at the meter, you'll know and
we'll know. The new meters have state-of-the-art meter-reading technology
that allows us to find these leaks without dispatching personnel to your home.
It also makes us able to detect meter malfunctioning, tampering and vandalism,
as well as instantly alerting us to the theft of water from disconnected
accounts." WASA also announced that billing would begin on a monthly
basis, replacing the quarterly billing cycle.
Few problems were encountered during the changeover, and
those were resolved "as quickly as possible," according to WASA,
which had established a problem-solving team early on -- specifically to
handle issues as they arose.
Now that the new system is in operation, the radio frequency
device at each meter sends its meter reading to a data collector unit twice
each day. Then on a daily basis, the data collector unit forwards all the meter
readings it has collected to customer service headquarters for billing.
The District of Columbia WASA is a multi-jurisdictional
regional utility that provides drinking water, wastewater collection and
treatment to more than 500,000 residential, commercial and governmental
customers in the District of Columbia.
The utility also collects and treats wastewater for 1.6 million
customers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland and Fairfax
and Loudoun counties in Virginia.
WASA's Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant, located
in southwest Washington, is the largest advanced wastewater treatment facility
in the world. The plant covers 150 acres with a capacity of 370 million gallons
per day (mgd) and has a peak capacity of 1.076 billion gallons per day.
Approximately 1,200 employees work at various facilities
throughout the district, with a service area of approximately 725 square miles.