The 2018 Smart Water Utility Mission Statement

The 2018 Smart Water Utility Mission Statement

Smart Water: A Cultural Shift editor’s note

EDITORIAL Editor James W. Rush Associate Editor Andrew Farr Brad Kramer • Keith Gribbins Pam Kleineke • Mike Kezdi SALES+MARKETING Marketing Director Kelly Dadich Regional Sales Representative Hannah Schiffman Regional Sales Representative Maura Dugan Event Sales Manager Brittany Cline Marketing & Event Planning Specialist Jeni Wengryniuk PRODUCTION+ FULFILLMENT Production Manager Chris Slogar Graphic Artist Deborah R. McManus Web/Interactive Manager Mark Gorman Circulation & Fulfillment Specialist Lillian Lopeman Reprints Wright’s Media Contributing Staff Editors Sharon M. Bueno • Chris Crowell

A s we were finalizing this eBook, the news came through that George Hawkins, CEO and general manager of DC Water, had announced he would step down from his position as chief ex- ecutive of the utility at the end of 2017. If you work in the water sector, then you’re likely aware of both Hawkins’ reputation as a rock star of the industry and DC Water’s reputation as a leader in innovation. After the news broke, I watched some video clips of Hawkins speak-

ing at various conferences in recent years (you can really waste some time on YouTube). Hawkins’ passion for his job shines through every time he talks about water. I came across one where he was speaking on a panel at an IBM technology conference in 2011 talking about technology in the water sector. “There is a lack of innovation in our field, and it’s historic,” he said. “We have to trans- form, fundamentally. The analytics and the IT solutions we’re using [now] have allowed us to do it. It’s not what we’re using analytics for, it’s what aren’t we using it for.” It’s refreshing to hear an industry leader like Hawkins talk progressively about technol- ogy adoption in the water sector. And that was 2011. A true cultural shift in how we think about managing water has been needed for utilities to become willing to adopt smart wa- ter. But every water system is different. It’s up to each utility to determine what smart water really means and how they want to achieve it. In this eBook, we’ve partnered with Sensus, a Xylem brand , to examine how smart water is impacting utility management, how it can help reduce water loss and non-revenue water and what the next steps might be in 2018. If you work in the municipal water sector then you know the value proposition for tech- nology can be complex. But remember, smart water is all about improving your revenue, and if implemented correctly, it can truly boost your bottom line. Enjoy the 2018 Smart Water Utility Mission Statement. Thanks for downloading!

Andrew Farr Associate Editor Water Finance & Management

table of contents

3 - The Modern Public Water System By Andrew Farr Making your utility smarter begins with defining goals.

Ph: 877-652-5295 Fax: 281-419-5712

1992 - 2017 th 2

6 - Getting Smarter About Your Water Loss Reduce water loss in a way that is economically sustainable both for your utility and your ratepayers. Plus, seven steps you can follow to help reduce your non-revenue water. 10 - Smart Water Success Stories Let’s explore some examples of successful smart water implementation, how utilities were able to overcome challenges and what the results have been so far.

CEO & Publisher Bernard P. Krzys President Robert Krzys Controller Marianne Saykes

14 - The Smart Utility of the Future By Andrew Farr Examining the digital revolution in the water sector and how utilities fit into the larger smart city discussion.

10050 Brecksville Rd. Brecksville, OH 44141 USA (330) 467-7588 • Fax: (330) 468-2289 e-mail:



The Modern Public Water System

T he core mission of drinking water utilities is to treat wate r to safe drinking standards and deliver it to customers at a suffi- cient quality, quantity and pressure to meet domestic, com- mercial, industrial, institutional and fire protection needs. In the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implements the rules mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. While these rules provide a baseline for performance for utilities across the country, it’s up to the water utilities to make sure they are operating their systems at peak performance, generating sufficient revenue for operation and future upgrades, and maintaining affordable rates for their consumers. As time has gone on and business practices have changed, the management of public water utilities has evolved in many ways due to technology. Many utilities have invested heavily in enhancing their monitoring, communications and IT infrastructure, all in an effort to improve operational efficiencies, conserve water and save money. The ability to acquire, transmit and store data, and apply analytics to deci- sion making is the new norm in the water sector. With this technological evolution, the modern public water sys- tem now faces many challenges that systems in the past did not need to consider. These challenges include: • Is my water system data sufficient, or could I use more? • Is my data as accurate as it can be? • Do my devices – meters, analyzers, handheld sensors, etc. – communicate and store information effectively? • Is the data transmitted in the right intervals? • Is the latency level acceptable for my application? • Do the data and analytics lead to actions that improve operations? Perhaps all of these challenges can be summed up in a single question facing water utilities today – “How can I use my existing assets and the advanced technologies the industry now offers to optimize my system and make my utility a Smart Water Utility?” Before we tackle that question, it is best to review the four princi- pal goals or overarching objectives of any water utility. Let’s examine those.

Making Your Utility Smarter Begins with Defining Goals

By Andrew Farr



The Four Key Objectives of a Water Utility 1

Delivering Safe Drinking Water to Ensure Public Health Looking back through history, civilizations often organized themselves around obtainable, clean drinking water. As municipalities formed over time, they made it a fundamental priority to provide clean, safe drinking water to prevent diseases and ensure public health. In the modern era, clean drinking water increasingly became recognized as a public priority. In fact, the American Water Works Associa- tion held its first meeting in 1881 to create a platform for exchanging information about source water contamination. The formation of AWWA and subsequent discoveries about the link between disease and unsafe drinking water led to improvements in water quality – arguably one of the most important advancements in the history of public health. Today, the modern water utility’s primary goal is to provide a quality product that protects and ensures the health of its consumers. Sustainability of Water Resources Maintaining an adequate water supply in the face of growing demand is critical for utilities. While effective water resources planning is a must, water authorities are increasingly aware that resource sustainability can be achieved by focusing on water use efficiency. In addition to planning upstream expansion, utilities are looking for ways within their systems to reduce water loss and make the most of current, or even diminishing, resources. The modern public water system serves a critical role in the preservation and conservation of natural resources. Reliable Water Delivery The water utility is responsible for delivering water to the point of service connections, mostly for the purpose of consumption, but also for other uses such as firefighting. In fact, the design of water systems is typically based around the volume constraints, pressure, size and subsequent losses associated with firefighting activities. In this way, the modern water system performs another vital public safety function – the provision of a ready supply of water to use in the event of a fire. Efficient Account Management The fourth objective of the water utility is to manage its accounts. The modern water utility cannot achieve its other critical functions with- out providing for its own financial sustainability. The account management component encompasses customer interface and finances. This involves the information exchange about consumption (water use data gathering), billing, receipt of payment and the continuation of service based upon those finances.






Quality & Availability Travis Smith, Director of North American Water Strategy for Sensus, a Xylem brand , says public drinking water supply can be broken down into two fundamental values people demand for their water – quality and availability. “There’s plenty of water in the world. It’s just that in the modern world, we’ve developed to such an extent that we are often far from our water resource or it’s not readily drinkable. More often than not, our most available water resource is underground, has high concen- trations of salt in it, or requires some treatment to make it drinkable,” says Smith. “What customers want is clean water delivered to them, and that has tremendous value in it. Customers are willing to pay for a quality product that is delivered to them. At its extreme, the value of water can be quantified by looking at bottled water. People purchase bottled water because it’s clean and readily available. Look at what people are willing to pay for it. Now, whether you get it from your faucet or from a bottle, the value of water is typically tied to those two things – quality and availability.” Challenges While the modern public water system faces many challenges, according to Smith, the two areas where utilities have the most room for improvement is water delivery and account management. “The biggest opportunity for most utilities to improve operations is in non-revenue water, and that’s typically a combination of the delivery piece and the finance piece,” he says. “That’s not to say every utility faces the same issues. Other utili- ties may have other specific problems. What a smart water infrastruc- ture can do is provide a tool to monitor whatever problem a water utility is trying to solve.” Smith adds that utilities are almost always in a state of improvement, meaning there will always be new chal- lenges that arise once the current ones are solved. “Over time, problems change,” he says. “Some water utilities have been progressive in reducing their non-revenue water, but then they may find their challenge is improving their water quality. Others may find source water sustainability is their biggest challenge. De- pending on geography and the price of electricity, power consump- tion related to the delivery of water may become a priority. As utili- ties improve one thing, they may be faced with different challenges. More than ever, they need the ability and the tools to focus their attention on the next issue as their world changes.”

The Role of Smart Water One key component of the Smart Water Utility is smart me- tering. Smith says that new metering technology has allowed utilities to capture more data about water use. “There is no better place in a water utility to actually measure a lot of these things than at the point of delivery,” he says. “The consumer cares about the availability of the water, the pressure of the wa- ter and the quality of the water. So why wouldn’t we take the opportunity to enhance our measurements at the water meter to improve all these areas?” But the term “smart water” goes beyond “smart metering” or any other specific piece of monitoring technology. Smart water can be viewed as a concept that utilities fulfill when they are able to monitor their system for the data they need, analyze that data effectively, and make better decisions to improve their system in any of the four core areas – quality, sustainability, delivery or fi- nance. But despite the evolution of technologies, there are still difficul- ties in taking the next step with data gained from smart meters, sen- sors and analytics to achieve a smart water network. “I think that the major barrier to implementing smart water is for utilities to learn how to use all of the data they can now get,” says Dan Pinney, Senior Director of Global Water Marketing at Sensus. “AMI, for example, has been out for a very long time and yet not everybody has learned the value they can get out of the data. A lot of systems are able to get data, but having the ability to apply that data to ac- tion in the field to get those benefits, that part is still lagging behind the curve.” So, how does a water utility become a Smart Water Utility in or- der to improve on their four key objectives? According to Pinney, “Utility managers need to ask themselves: What operational gain do I get out of implementing a piece of technology? How do I quantify it? And how can I integrate all of my data to begin to change my busi- ness processes to make them more efficient?” Pinney says answering those questions will help the modern wa- ter system become a Smart Water Utility in which it can optimize its operations and achieve its four key objectives.

Andrew Farr is the associate editor of Water Finance & Management .



Getting Smarter About Your Water Loss

Think beyond the leak.

Non-revenue water goes beyond leaks and tank overflows. In fact, there are four sources of non-revenue water leading to a daily potential revenue loss of $165K in the US. Discover the facts, and learn how a smart water solution from Sensus can help boost your bottom line. T here is no simple solution to reducing water loss and ensuring that the maximum volume of water entering your system reaches your customers. A validated water audit is always an essential first step to mitigate water losses and positively impact your utility’s bottom line, and the goal is always to reduce water loss in a way that is economically sustainabl both for your utility and your ratepayers. THE 2018 SMART WATER UTILITY MISSION STATEMENT


As a water industry professional, you may be familiar with many facts and figures describing the scope of water loss. Here are a couple more. Accord- ing to the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, it is estimated that six billion gallons of water are lost in the United States each day. As- suming the retail value of water is between $0.007 to $0.01 per gallon, that’s $165,000 a day. Sensus estimates that up to 30 percent of the supplied water in the United States is lost, with averages generally ranging between 20 and 30 percent. Apparent vs. Real Losses AWWA’s Manual M36-Water Audits and Loss Control Programs defines water loss as the difference between the volume of water supplied to a sys- tem and authorized consumption within that system. Total water loss is de- fined as the sum of apparent and real losses. Apparent loss can result from inaccuracies associated with metering er- rors, systematic data handling errors, data gaps, misreported data, unauthor- ized consumption (theft), estimated volumes due to lack of metering, and similar nonphysical (paper) losses. Real losses are physical water losses that can result from leaking water mains and service connections, storage tank overflows, water flow from damaged pipelines and the like, reported or not. Non-revenue water (NRW) can be defined as the sum of apparent and real water losses combined with the volume of water used for fighting fires, water main flushing, fire flow testing and similar unbilled, authorized con- sumption. NRW reduction begins with accurately categorizing the nature and volume of a system’s apparent and real losses. As a smart water solutions provider, Sensus recommends a package of seven steps that utilities can take to mitigate and reduce NRW. “You don’t have to utilize all seven of them, but they are seven different things you can do depending on where you are in the non-revenue water solution you want to obtain,” says Travis Smith, Director of North American Water Strategy for Sensus. “Some utilities are further along in their journey to improve their sys- tems, others are just getting started. We try to recommend these steps from the simplest to the more sophisticated.”




7 Steps for Addressing & Reducing Non-Revenue Water

NOTE: It is important to note that a utility would not skip steps 1-3, which fall into the apparent loss category and are often a prerequisite for identifying real losses. Once you eliminate apparent losses, it’s easier to identify real losses. Beyond steps 1-3, utilities may to choose to skip steps 4 or 5 depending on where they are in the process of establishing NRW reduction initia- tives. It’s up to the utility to determine where along the seven steps they might start to address their NRW challenges.

Step 1. Assess Your Commercial & Industrial Meter Accuracy

In the meter population of most utilities, there are usually a variety of meter sizes. It is not uncommon that there are a larg- er number of smaller residential meters compared to the larger commercial and industrial meters. However, the larger com-

mercial and industrial meters usually bring in more overall revenue. Large meters by count may only make up 10 to 15 percent of the meter population but account for up to 60 percent of the revenue generated for the water department. Meter accuracy is

a critical issue in these cases because the failure of a few large meters can cause seri- ous revenue losses. A water utility should test its meters periodically as that is the only real way of knowing if a meter is work- ing correctly.

Step 2. Assess Your Residential Meter Accuracy & Billing Errors

In the past, meters were read by the me- ter reader taking a manual read. This was tedious and required each meter to be looked at during the course of the billing cycle. Meters were subject to misreads and were often located in confined spaces requiring special equipment to enter the space. With the advent of automatic meter reading (AMR) systems by radio and cellu- lar signal, misreads have declined consid-

erably and the billing cycle has changed to where the utility can often read the en- tire system in a matter of days rather than over the course of a month or a quarter. With newer systems, the process of meter reading has been streamlined consider- ably and has allowed for a more accurate accounting of water uses at any given lo- cation. Still, mistakes can occur. When new me-

ters are installed now, the newer style reg- isters are encoded and programmable for electronic reading. That requires the me- ter installer to make sure the meter reg- ister is properly programmed at the time of installation so that when the meter is read, it produces the proper reading for the water that passed through it. It is also important that the AMR/AMI systems can meet the needs of the utility.

Step 3. Assess Non-Payment & Bad Debt Write-Off

Another area of apparent loss that utilities can address is non-payment (for things like unauthorized use) and bad debt write-off (the water got delivered, but you didn’t cap- ture any revenue). Theft can fall under the

category of unauthorized use. Meters also can get tampered with and illegal connec- tions made. Utilities need good policies that identify improper uses along with strong en- forcement with stiff penalties.




Step 4. Establish a Mass Balancing Strategy

If you were to correct your apparent losses, then it’s time to address your real losses. If you produce 1 million gallons of water today, and you meter 900,000 gallons of water, some- where in your system is 100,000 gallons that

went somewhere, presumably either in stor- age or it leaked out of your system. A mass balancing strategy allows you to quantify that. Ideally, by using the meters and potentially district metering, you can determine – either

by zone, geography, district or area – where to specifically look for real losses. Many utilities are separated into pressure zones and they know that certain zones or certain areas have older pipes, which can help with this strategy.

Step 5. Identify Leaks

Once you know where to look for potential real losses, you can begin to implement ac- tions to pinpoint leaks. If a utility has deter- mined the zone or district where it may have a leak, for example, it can then apply solutions

like acoustic strategies, such as correlation or the use of hydrophones in the water stream. When you can acoustically monitor a particu- lar zone, district or quadrant, you can dial in on where potential losses are occurring.

Step 6. Examine Fluid Energy Fluid energy involves a more sophisticated methodology in whichmeasuring the flow, ve- locity, friction, elevation and pressure is used to determine the occurrence and location of leaks. Generally, if the flow stops, the pres- sure inside a pipeline increases. If it doesn’t increase or increase as much as it should, you

probably have a leak. The problemwith leaks is two-fold. Leak detec- tion through acoustic methods, for example, finds existing leaks. Examining fluid energy can be used to find smaller leaks that are growing over time. Sometimes utilities have small leaks that are not worth digging up and the repair

costs exceed the cost of letting it go. But even- tually, the cost of letting a leak go will exceed the cost of repair. Looking at the pressure ver- sus the flow allows utilities to be more strategic about capturing leaks before it causes a main burst where you have a crisis situation to man- age instead of a maintenance operation.

Step 7. Monitoring & Leak Prevention

The final step of reducing your NRW deals with maintaining water loss con- trol long-term and getting a better sense of the life-cycle of the system. Monitor-

ing additional parameters inside of the utility, such as pressure transient moni- tors to capture the actual cause of water main breaks or going into the pipes and

doing intrusive measurement, can help give the utility a better idea of the condi- tion, predictive life and risk of failure of the pipe.

Again, it is important to note that these seven steps are respective of the size of the utility, as well as the goals of the utility in terms of the value of water. In California, for example, where water may be scarce, the value of the water might be twice what it is in North Carolina. “The payback equation changes and the utility’s appetite to climb higher on the curve of capturing more revenue for their water has more attractiveness to them because the payoff is there,” says Smith. “By con- trast, in a city where water scarcity or the production costs of water are

smaller, that payback may not be beneficial at the current time. Then later on, as water demand increases, that utility may look to that cost-benefit ratio and determine that it is now time to invest in water loss control. “What we’re trying to do is offer a suite of solutions for the utility to grow into and allow them to pick what is right for them. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Scale, the value of water and the cost-benefit ratio plays into which and how many of those solutions they may want to deploy.”



Smart Water Success Stories

New Smart Water Network Provides Perfect Harmony at Nashville Metro Water Services Utility Increases Employee Safety and Improves Meter Reads with Sensus Technology

P roviding 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 and 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 stel- lar universities, unique history and vibrant culture. Quality service and operational efficiency are critical as MWS welcomes these newcomers.

Manual Meter Reading Posed Hazards to Employees

For the technicians at MWS, poison ivy and bug bites were often part of the job, especially in rural farmlands of the utility’s northern territory. To reach some of the more remote areas, technicians rou- tinely walked through fields and drove in hazardous road conditions to manually read meters. “Manual meter reading and data input can be subject to er- ror, and re-reading meters was costly,” said Gary Ragland, customer service assistant manager of field activities, MWS. “We knew there



Smart Water Success Stories

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.”

ner for a smart water network in an effort to improve its operations. The utility deployed SR II® water meters and the FlexNet® commu- nication network . MWS now collects real-time data from the field to improve leak detection. Reducing Costs and Reaping New Benefits With Sensus technology, MWS now collects meter data remotely and has reduced the cost per meter read by 95 cents, saving $181,000 per month. At the same time, MWS has improved working conditions for technicians, who no longer have to face the insects and other rou- tine 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 wasn’t needed. “With Sensus’ technology we can identify issues, such as leaks, in a timely manner without making multiple trips,” said Ragland. “This benefits our customers and our employees.” With a smart water network, MWS can catch leaks before a cus- tomer’s bill soars. If the utility receives an alert that a customer has high or continuous water usage, a customer service representative im- mediately picks up the phone and notifies them. Nashville’s customers know they can count on the utility to look out for their interests. Managing Growth and Recovering Lost Revenue 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 ef- fectively. “We are proud to utilize state of the art technology to help us better serve our customers and manage our resources,” said Ragland. “We know we have a partner in Sensus.”

Hard-to-Reach Meters Slow Leak Detection In addition to hazards in the field, the meters were often covered with overgrown plants, dirt and other debris. This made the 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,” said Ragland, “We wanted to proactively alert them to potential water leaks, rather than wait for a call reporting a spike in water use.” Turning to the Right Partner A Sensus customer since the early 1950s, MWS turned to its part- “We are proud to utilize state of the art technology to help us better serve our customers and manage our resources. We know we have a partner in Sensus.”

LEARN MORE… Fountain Valley, California, Beats Water Reduction Goal

Click HERE to read about how a smart water network from Sensus led the City of Fountain Valley to a 23 per- cent decrease in water use.



Smart Water Success Stories

I t’s billing time at the City of Evans, Colorado water department. For the past 14 years, Randy, an Evans technician, has devoted days out of every month to drive the streets and read each of the city’s 6,500 water meters. Despite Randy’s hard work and long hours, the reads aren’t always accurate be- cause the aging meters estimate the data. Plus, the process takes so long that there’s often not enough time to review the data be- fore the bill goes out the door. “We couldn’t provide customers with the best possible service because our technicians were tied up for days each month manually reading meters,” said Joni Crist, utility billing specialist, City of Evans, Colorado. “We knew we needed to make a change.” Managing Rapid Population Growth The City of Evans is located about an hour north of Denver. With approximately 20,000 residents and counting, the city is growing so fast that its newly-built Prairie Heights Middle School is already at ca- pacity. Challenges with meter reads and billing will only get bigger as the population grows. Sensus Technology Improves Billing Accuracy, Supports Growing Population City of Evans, Colorado Reduces Estimated Meter Reads by 94 Percent

Wasted Time and Resources Aging meters and inaccurate reads are not just a hassle for the utility, they prevent the water department from meeting the needs of its customers. A case in point: the meters were so old that, at one point, approximately 1,500 of them were billed using estimated wa- ter use, some for as long as four years. This situation meant incorrect monthly bills for nearly one quarter of the city’s residents. “After we finally collected data from our meters, we had to rush to get the bills out the door,” said Crist. “We had very little time to ex- amine the invoices for potential leaks and other problems that were affecting our customers.” It was time for the city to update its infrastructure and improve customer service. Finding the Right Solution The City of Evans deployed Sensus iPERL® residential and OMNI™ commercial water meters , as well as the FlexNet® communi- cation network in order to: • Improve billing accuracy • Cut the time it took to conduct meters reads • Better serve its customers



Smart Water Success Stories

Etowah Water & Sewer Authority Partners with Sensus for Successful Smart Water Network Click HERE to read about how an AMI solution from Sensus helped the Etowah Water & Sewer Authority in Dawsonville, Ga., increase its revenue, opening the door to future rate structure options. Improving Customer Service with New Technology “Sensus’ technology helps us better serve our customers,” said Crist. “With the extra review time during our monthly billing process, we can catch issues before they are reflected on their bills and save them money.” The smart water network has empowered the city to decrease the number of estimated meter reads from 1,500 to 74. This whop- ping 94 percent reduction has been a game changer in operational efficiency and customer service. At the start of the monthly billing process, Evans now receives accurate usage data — without having to drive the city’s streets. The utility also reduced the number of manual meter reads it conducts by 84 percent. This means that Randy can use the time he previously spent reading meters helping customers. Plus, the staff has time to examine invoices and proactively alert customers to po- tential water leaks or other issues. Now when Randy visits a home or business, they know that he’s there to help. “Our technicians have noticed a difference in customer satis- faction,” said Crist. “Armed with data collected from new meters, they’re able to work with customers to quickly identify solutions to their problems.” Investing in a Solution for Today and Tomorrow Because the FlexNet system is scalable, it can help the city fulfill its quest to be an “economically diverse, self-sufficient community providing a clean, safe, family-friendly environment with growth- oriented infrastructure.” As a growing community, Evans is poised to handle utility billing for its new residents with greater efficiency and accuracy. No matter LEARN MORE…

how many people call this Evans community home, they can count on superior service from the city’s dedicated staff. “We’re so glad we upgraded our technology when we did,” said Crist. “Not only does it benefit our current customers, but it also gives us the high-quality equipment we need to be ready for the newcomers to our city. We’ve set ourselves up for sustainable growth for years to come.”

Challenge: Improve billing accuracy and customer service. Solution: Implement a smart water network from Sensus. Reach Farther: Provide a clean, safe environment to a growing population.

Easton Suburban Water Authority Saves $85,000 a Year with Sensus Software as a Service Read about how a private, cloud-based solution helped Easton Suburban Water Authority in Pa. save time and money and improve its customer service and productivity. Click HERE to learn more.



C limate change, increasing urbanization, tightening of regulations and water scarcity are some of the many global changes that water utilities will soon be forced to address in cost-effective ways. While these drivers for change are pushing utilities for more efficiency, there is also a technological rev- olution taking place. A new array of digital tools is available to help solve modern water challenges, including new low- cost sensors, more efficient wide area network com- munications technology, inexpensive and secure cloud computing resources, powerful machine learn- ing systems, and new business models surrounding software-as-a-service (SaaS). The intersection of glob- al water trends and the technological revolution could be an opportunity for the water sector to leapfrog sec- tors it has typically lagged behind in the application of digital processes.

The Smart Utility of the Future Examining the Digital Revolution in the Water Sector & How Utilities Fit into the Larger Smart City Discussion

By Andrew Farr



It is well understood that digital has the power to help water and wastewater utili- ties in many areas, including: engaging customers more closely than ever before, sav- ing money through operational efficiencies, improving service levels and reliability, and extending the life of aging assets. Amane Advisors , a business consulting firm specializing in the water sector, recent- ly launched an initiative to help accelerate digital technology adoption in water. The initiative included qualitative and quantitative surveys of global leaders from water and wastewater utilities, technology companies, and water sector investors. These surveys yielded original insights, trends and predictions on the digitization of the water sector. According to survey respondents, a whopping 90 percent of utilities put a high priority on adopting digital technology.

Smart Water Benefits • Reduce non-revenue water • Decrease meter

replacement and repair costs • Enable quick decision making with smart water alarms • Reduce truck rolls • Transmit data quicker and more reliably with a dedicated, licensed spectrum • Analyze more data, more often, and provide results in a more actionable format • Improve customer service and personnel efficiency

source: Amane Advisors

An End-to-End View There are many factors that go into implementing digital technology to achieve a fully functional smart water network to help make intelligent decisions about your water system. There are also many components involved in creating that network. Travis Smith, Director of North American Water Strategy for Sensus, a Xylem brand , says that the smart water network includes five key components: meters and sensors, communications, data collection and storage, and analytics. Smith says that few service providers in the water sector can deliver an end-to-end view across all five areas. The Sensus smart water network provides services that can tie all of that together. “There are a number of companies that have one or two pieces of those five, but very few can actually provide the assurance to a utility that they can deliver a complete solution,” he says. “Sensus can.” Smith continues, “If utilities are hesitant to integrate the data collection, or if they don’t want to manage the data storage or data security, Sensus will take care of all of it for them and deliver something with a favorable return on investment. We know from experience that many utilities are not set up to provide themselves a complete, end-to- end digital solution. We are set up to do just that.”

Sensus ROI Calculator

What are the financial benefits of becoming a smart water utility? Sensus has developed a new tool designed for a water utility to calculate the ROI for implementing an AMI solution.



Smart Meters One of the tools now available to help water systems go digital are smart meters. There are many advantages offered by new smart meters . Smart water meters have alarms that enable a water system to make quick, informed decisions. Smart meters are self-aware to potential tampering issues. They also offer tighter accuracy param- eters, especially in low flow conditions, and have configurable reg- ister settings. These benefits make metering more functional, more accurate and more efficient. Network Management Network management is another critical component and ben- efit of smart water deployment. Smart water networks offer remote and continuous distribution system monitoring, accurate diagnosis and prioritization of problems, and proactive management of prob- lems. Because the conditions in water systems change constantly, networks must be resilient and expandable to manage the inevitable changes that utilities face. “I want our AMI system and our networks to be responsive to the utility’s use,” Smith says. “You need a suite of applications to man- age the configurations and the updates. The network has to manage the data frequently and manage its own lifecycle and the lifecycle of the water system. We’re developing a set of network management tools that give the user the ability to update the system’s configura- tion, update the firmware and update the software. It sounds very involved, but these tools will ultimately provide a seamless customer experience so that the system is more flexible and easier to manage.” Customer Engagement In the first section of the eBook, we discussed the four overarch- ing objectives of the water utility – Delivering Safe Drinking Water, Sustainability of Water Resources, Water Delivery and Account Man- agement. In the Account Management piece, customer service is a large part of that.

Benefits of Digital Solutions to Utilities


Prevent issues and improve service reliability


Allow real time event management, e.g. of stormwater, pipe breaks


Extend lifetime of assets, e.g. pipes, pumps, etc.

Improve customer experience



Reduce non-labor costs

Reduce labor costs


Reduce non-revenue water


Improve the perception of the utility to the mayor


source: Amane Advisors

“Today’s consumer wants more information about what they’re doing,” says Smith. “Think of our smart phones and how quickly we have all grown used to the idea that we will have the information we want when we want it. In the same way, a water customer’s appetite and expectations for the availability of information is growing every day. And now, with the interconnectivity of measurement devices to the network, there’s no reason why that information can’t be made available for consumers. But the data is not just for the consumers. The water system itself now has data at its fingertips that it can utilize for systemmanagement in the short-term, and for strategy, conserva- tion and planning in the long-term.” Smith says there has been an evolution at Sensus and the com- pany is now able to supply utilities with the option of providing cus- tomers a wealth of information. And while it has tremendous value to the individual customer, this information ultimately provides a bene- fit to the utility as well. For example, customer service initiatives have been particularly beneficial in California and other drought-stricken



areas of the United States where customers needed to have readily available information on their water use due to imposed restrictions. “The response to these customer service initiatives, and the technology that enables such response, is something that I think the water industry will grow into in the next 10 years,” says Smith. Smart City Integration There are numerous aspects of community life that can be en- hanced by improving the operational efficiency of municipal depart- ments across a city. City departments such as public utilities, and in particular, water and wastewater utilities, are one of many areas be- ing affected by the technology revolution. But how will smart water initiatives fit into the larger smart city discussion? Dan Pinney, Senior Director of Global Water Marketing at Sen- sus and passionate smart technology advocate, says that because public utility adoption of smart water technology is growing, one challenge lies with creating compatibility among different technol- ogy platforms. This is not a small issue. Not accounting for the differ- ent platforms could ultimately mean the difference between imple- menting just a single piece of smart technology versus establishing something that can be part of a larger, comprehensive network.

serve,” he says. “Sometimes they’re conserving manpower, some- times they’re conserving their resources. So, choosing a system that can be upgraded and migrated not just in terms of whether it can talk, but whether it can continue to grow, and whether you can con- tinue to add future applications onto it, is really critical.” Pinney adds that there is a fundamental problem that can oc- cur when utilities put too much emphasis on installing new systems without checking to be sure they will be upgradable in the future. “If you think about the cellular world, for example, you don’t have the same cell phone you had five years ago. And the cell phone you had 10 years ago doesn’t even work in today’s world. So be- ing sure that you’re choosing a platform that’s going to be around for 15-20-plus years, that is a very important decision-making step when you’re considering a technology,” he says. “Otherwise, you’ll be forced to do a change out of a system when you really didn’t plan on it. “I think we’ve become such a throwaway society. Doing that on a personal level seems okay. It’s not ideal, but we all do it. But when you do it across the whole municipality, the numbers are really huge. It’s very important to install a system that you are sure can grow with you so you don’t have to replace it every five or 10 years.” The Goal of the Smart City Ultimately, the goal of implementing a smart city solution starts at home – or at least with city leadership. City leaders should consid- er what they want to achieve by migrating to smart, digital systems. Sensus has the ability to implement a complete smart solution across all five platforms – meters and sensors, communications, data collec- tion and storage, and analytics – but it is ultimately the city leaders who will decide how a smart solution will help improve city opera- tions and the experience of their customers. “The whole smart city approach is designed to help with opera- tional efficiencies,” Pinney says. “That operational efficiency comes from analyzing the data, and more importantly, taking action from that data. It’s one thing to have the data. It’s another thing to be able to do something with it. It might be leak detection, it might be ir- rigation control, it might be lighting. The utilities need to be asking themselves when they install infrastructure, what operational effi- ciencies are they looking to gain?” The answer to that question will ultimately help municipali- ties define the path they will take – and the service partner they will choose – to help them build comprehensive, smart city solutions to make their organizations as efficient as possible. They will then start to take advantage of what digital has to offer – and will be taking their first steps into their own smart city.

Top Barriers to Adoption: What Should Technology Providers Do Better?


Integrate solutions better with legacy and other systems


Improve ease of use for operational staff


Provide more complete end-to-end solution


Offer lower price

Develop a more flexible business model and share risk/reward



Be more cyber secure

source: Amane Advisors

“Certainly, getting data integrated from different areas is a challenge,” says Pinney. “The smart city concept is, I think, still in its infancy in all it can do. When you start taking data from a lot of dif- ferent places – whether it’s weather data, groundwater data, energy consumption or distribution information – there are a lot of different pieces that need to be integrated together so they can be transmit- ted, stored, analyzed and eventually acted upon.” Pinney says making sure systems are upgradeable will be a de- termining factor of cities’ ability to become smart. “We’re fundamentally in the business of helping utilities con-

Andrew Farr is the associate editor of Water Finance & Management .



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