Water utilities across the United States started phasing in automated meter reading (AMR) in the mid-to-late 1980s. Then in the mid-2000s, the water industry began using drive-by AMR technology which allowed the utility to collect data faster and more efficiently. In less than 20 years after the emergence of AMR, metering technology quickly progressed and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) entered the scene. AMI gathers flow data at the point of use and throughout areas of the distribution system in real time via cellular signal.
AMI information can then be used to identify irregularities in the system’s flow or a resident’s water usage. The water system can also use the data to optimize pressure zones throughout their distribution network. Therefore, enabling the pressure in the network’s zone to be adjusted according to peak flow months. Thus, optimizing the energy used in lift stations and pumps in the distribution network. Additionally, the implementation of AMI improves the system’s ability to detect leaks which potentially minimizes lost water revenue. Furthermore, it allows for more accurate billing, helps to resolve customer issues quickly and efficiently, and empowers the customer to be proactive in water conservation.
Deciding to undertake an AMI project can be expensive initially. However, there may be available assistance through annual grants or the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Other common approaches for funding AMI projects may be to consider incremental rate increases, user fees, reserve capital and/or revenue bonds. A good deal of contemplation and planning will be needed to begin the process of phasing AMI into your water system. Nevertheless, AMI may be a smart solution for water management success, to increase revenue, improve customer service, and to support conservation efforts. If you are interested in AMI training check out our training calendar as we always have something for everyone: mwua.org/training