Smart, Modernized Water Metering to Support Community-Wide Sustainability

June 18, 2021

Advanced metering infrastructure and smart metering technology enhance Toledo, Ohio water system


About the author:

Mark Reinbold serves as vice president and general manager for Performance Infrastructure as part of the Building Solutions North America business at Johnson Controls. He is responsible for transforming buildings and infrastructure to enable mission-critical activities and achieve carbon reduction/net zero goals for Johnson Controls customers. Reinbold can be reached at [email protected].

As communities continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainability has emerged as a top priority amongst cities and townships. With minor water leaks accounting for nearly 1 trillion gallons of wasted water in the U.S. annually, water efficiency is rapidly becoming a pioneer initiative for forward-thinking communities. 

By investing in environmental stewardship initiatives that include water system improvements, community leaders are empowered to maximize their cost savings, develop connected and data-driven infrastructure and create a greener future for generations to come. 

As a strategic partner with decades of experience in environmental stewardship and the force behind OpenBlue connected solutions, Johnson Controls leverages its global resources to work with local government leaders across the country to reach ambitious sustainability goals. 

One such customer is the city of Toledo, Ohio. The city’s existing water metering and billing system technology had become outdated and inefficient due to deferred maintenance. The aged technology did not allow users to identify inefficiencies at their source or optimize their systems for greater sustainability, which meant water waste continued unchecked. 

Toledo’s aged water systems lacked the data and modernized infrastructure to support a community-wide conservation initiative. Guided by a commitment to their citizens and the environment, city leaders reimagined their water infrastructure with smart metering technology.

Innovative Funding & Environmental Stewardship

To reach its sustainability and efficiency goals without diverting from its budget, city leaders leveraged a performance-based contract. Leveraging state procurement legislation, the project will be wholly paid for over a fixed period of time through guaranteed energy, operational and maintenance savings. 

In addition to providing financing support, Johnson Controls also assumed ownership of project management to mitigate risk. Transferring the management of its water conservation strategy enabled city leaders to remain focused on their citizens and sustainability goals. 

During the subsequent development phase, Johnson Controls experts performed on-site surveying and testing of existing water meters, allowing them to design a custom offering for the city which would support their aesthetic and safety needs. 

The upgrades Johnson Controls installed as part of Toledo’s water sustainability project, totaling $85.7 million, were:

  • Approximately 126,000 water meter upgrades and replacements across the city, including large commercial, intermediate and residential locations;
  • An advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) network installation including towers and 38 base stations, with plans to mount antennas on both existing structures and new poles;
  • Installation of new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to integrate and interface with the AMI network; and
  • Updates to the customer service portal, allowing for direct communication between all parties, including the city, Johnson Controls and ratepayers.

The core of the initiative lies in the installation of AMI, which supports the upgraded water meters with user-friendly software solutions. Leveraging data automatically generated by the AMI through new ERP software and customer portal, the city and its ratepayers will have valuable insight into water usage and efficiency. The user-friendly nature of the software streamlines water monitoring processes, which replaces the potentially inaccurate and time-consuming process of manual water reading. 

And by leveraging cloud capabilities, city officials can access this information even when off-site, enabling agile and comprehensive remote monitoring. This feature has proven to be especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing utility providers to take meter measurements remotely to maintain social distancing guidelines.

For Toledo, these updates will empower city leaders to modernize their water infrastructure at every level of operation. The network will also serve as the foundation for any future smart community initiatives, enabling easy integration of additional smart city technologies in the future.


Intelligent Integration Drives Meaningful Outcomes 

The updates installed and integrated for this project will maximize the city’s water conservation efforts. By placing water metering systems onto a single network, city officials and ratepayers gain advanced insight into their spaces’ water utilization rates through automated data collection, analysis and reporting. 

This granular insight allows them to identify exactly where inefficiencies occur within their facilities before they can reach a critical condition. These issues include water leaks, meter tampering, or reverse flow among others. The result is a community where every individual has the data-driven tools to make informed decisions to combat water waste, creating healthier buildings and collectively contributing to a more sustainable community. 

In addition to the project’s impact on water conservation, the initiative will drive other critical outcomes for the community.

Valuable Cost Savings

The projected $117 million in cost savings generated by smart water metering will be vital to the community, as these funds can be redirected to programs and policies that directly impact citizens, such as future sustainability improvements. 

Improved Operations

In addition to their cost efficiency, the new technologies are expected to provide better accuracy than traditional meters and will require less maintenance. The system will therefore provide a greater and more detailed wealth of information on asset health, allowing for improved troubleshooting and maintenance. And by upgrading to the latest in AMI technology and integrating to the existing city workflow system, the city’s asset management and maintenance processes will be streamlined for greater operational efficiency. 

Greater User Satisfaction

Rate payers will enjoy a user-friendly customer service portal, which enhances communication between themselves and the City of Toledo Department of Public Utilities. By automating water metering and billing processes that were previously manual, the city’s small businesses and families will save valuable time and feel confident their utility bills are accurate. 

Smart & Modernized Water Conservation

Communities across the globe are recognizing their responsibility to the planet and have set extensive water efficiency goals as a result. By upgrading their water metering systems to the latest in smart metering technology, Toledo’s leadership ensures their community remains on the cutting edge of sustainability, paving the way for surrounding cities to follow suit. 

The updates implemented by Johnson Controls minimize water waste, maximize savings and position the city as an ideal location for environmentally minded individuals to live, work and play. With the project expected to be completed by the end of 2023, the Toledo is positioned to meet its goals and become a pioneer in water conservation.

About the Author

Mark Reinbold