New Meters in the Ozarks

Aug. 22, 2014
Arkansas utility upgrades meters & AMR system

About the author: John Fillinger is director of utility marketing for Badger Meter. Fillinger can be reached at [email protected] or 414.371.5872.

Responsible for water delivery in sections of Pope and Yell counties in Arkansas, Tri County Regional Water serves a vast and diverse land mass. Mountainous terrain, dramatic changes in elevation and rural living are hallmarks of the area, which stretches many miles through the Ozark Mountain range. To better serve its residential customers, the utility needed an accurate and reliable meter reading system.

Faced with high levels of water loss, meter failure and an inadequate drive-by system, Tri County Regional Water turned to Badger Meter in the summer of 2012. Recommended by Arkansas-based Henard Utility Products Inc., the Badger Meter solution includes 5/8-by-3/4-in. E-Series ultrasonic meters and the Orion Classic (CE) automatic meter reading (AMR) system. 

Seeking a New Provider 

Serving 8,000 customers on a narrow budget, Tri County Regional Water chose to deploy its new meters and AMR system by county, starting with the areas of most critical need. Yell County, the smallest distribution system in the two counties, was experiencing an average water loss of 15% to 20% each month, despite the recent implementation of a new waterline system. It is also the furthest away from utility headquarters, making rereads especially time consuming and costly.

“Our drive-by system was failing. Our radios and the actual dials themselves were not staying synced. For example, the meter would read 10,000 gal, but my electronic read would only show 5,000 gal. As a result, we had to do a lot of manual rereads, which was very inefficient,” said Tri County Regional Water Manager John Choate.

“If you’re paying for an automatic system, you want an automatic system,” said Mike Henard, owner of Henard Utility Products Inc. “John’s meters were failing and his radios wouldn’t read. They just quit. He had struggled through four generation changes of his previous system because of failures.”

Selecting New Meters

After considering various meter products, Tri County Regional Water selected the E-Series ultrasonic meter line for its reduced height, durability and accuracy. 

“The size of these meters was a key factor. They can be mounted upside down, vertical or horizontal and still be read correctly,” Choate said. “I also really liked the stainless steel version and the simplicity of a one-piece electronic meter with no moving parts. Stainless steel gives me peace of mind knowing that these meters will have a long life. They also are in compliance with the latest BPA guidelines.”

In an area with a range of elevations, the ability to withstand pressure changes was another critical factor in the meter selection process.

“We are not losing nearly as much water. With 100 to 125 psi on the line, our previous meters would implode. Our new meters can withstand ‘max stated’ operating psi of 175, but we found they will withstand 300 psi and more,” Choate said. “Similarly, our former meters only read 20 gal per minute accurately, whereas the Badger Meter product will read 25 gal per minute and more.”

Improves Efficiencies & Measurement 

To support its electronic meter selection, Tri County Regional Water implemented the Orion Classic (CE) one-way drive-by system. Using AMR technology, the utility can now collect accurate readings and take full advantage of the benefits attributed to a mobile meter reading system.

“In the areas we implemented the Orion product, we are now registering the water going through more accurately. Additionally, the meter and the radio read always show the same thing. I have confidence in this system both for its efficiency and its accuracy,” Choate said.

Improving Non-Revenue Water Losses  

Today, Tri County Regional Water has converted all of the meters in Yell County to the E-Series ultrasonic meters, and is consistently experiencing monthly water loss between 2.5% to 3%, a vast improvement over its previous 15% to 20% totals. 

“In Yell County, we’ve had this system in place for two years and so far, I have been extremely happy with it. Our reread time has completely gone away, and the meters themselves are accurate, even at low flows, and wearing very well. The reading equipment never misses a read,” Choate said.

As of spring 2014, the utility also has converted approximately 25% of its services in Pope County to the new meters and meter reading system, seeing similar positive results. Water loss has already dropped from the mid-30 percentile range to 17%, then 12%, and continues to improve each month as more E-Series meters are deployed. 

“What we’re seeing here is a 180-degree turnaround,” Henard said. “We started the confidence-building process with John a few years ago after working on another large-scale project. For this initiative, we performed several trials and relied on other customers as positive references to attest to the quality of these products. We were sold this system assured of Badger Meter’s superior reputation and outstanding service.”

Saving Money & Resources 

With the revenue Tri County Regional Water is saving as a result of new system deployments, Choate plans to complete E-Series ultrasonic meter and Orion Classic (CE) installations in Pope County.

“Our top goal is to provide safe drinking water at a reasonable price to all of our customers. We want to be as efficient as we can and this system allows us to do that. Besides all of the money savings, we also want to reduce waste, because water is such a precious resource,” Choate said.

Tri County Regional Water looks forward to the future as its water loss reductions continue to improve and the utility runs even more efficiently.

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About the Author

John Fillinger

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