In early 2011, West River/Lyman-Jones Rural Water Systems (WR/LJ) was living with the painful reality ex- perienced by many rural water utilities. With a service
area of over 8,000 square miles and only eight full-time employees, collecting meter readings came with a high level of
frustration and excessive cost for the South Dakota co-op.
Because of its low customer density in a large service area,
the co-op maintained a self-read and self-bill meter system
where customers were required to call and mail in their meter
reading every month. “Members would go weeks without
reading,” said Jake Fitzgerald, General Manager of WR/LJ.
“We wouldn’t know of any discrepancies until we completed
an annual meter audit where we would identify huge water
losses on the customer side. The customer would go into bill
shock seeing thousands of dollars for unpaid water usage,
and collecting on those bills caused heartburn for everyone.”
The co-op determined it needed a solution that allowed them
to gather daily readings without relying on their customers.
NEW METER READING SOLUTION
In late 2011, WR/LJ began looking for an automatic meter
reading (AMR) solution that would work uniformly across its
entire customer base, regardless of the type of meter onsite or
the available communication infrastructure for relaying meter
The co-op was also hoping that a new system would solve
another ongoing problem. “We would notice high fows
using our master meters,” recounted Fitzgerald. “But if we
couldn’t fnd a leak on our line, we were out chasing meters,
physically driving out to these remote locations to see how
many gallons per minute customers were using at every loca-
tion. It was slow and expensive for us and for our members.”
The co-op, after much research and consideration, opted
for the satellite water meter reading system offered by IDT
to solve its ongoing data issues and meet its leak-detection
objectives. The IDT Harmony Water Management System is
a two-part solution consisting of the Harmony satellite feld
units and the Harmony cloud web application. The Harmony
satellite feld unit connects with most major water meters and
is responsible for sending daily meter reading data to the Har-
mony cloud web application via satellite. Battery life on the
satellite feld units is guaranteed for 3,650 reads, or 10 years
of daily readings.
Since the readings are relayed using Sky Wave satellite mes-
saging terminals, there is no requirement to install fxed radio
towers or clustered repeaters, which can be a fnancial challenge
for most low-density, topographically-challenged rural water
utilities. The use of satellite also removes the requirements as-
sociated with maintaining communication infrastructure.
The Harmony cloud web application is a web-based interface that aggregates the data from all water meters. It allows
utility managers to closely analyze and monitor water consumption and receive alerts if unusually high consumption is
detected. The system also allows the utility to bill customers
for their consumption.
RESULTS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Soon after the initial installation of satellite meter reading systems across the region, WR/LJ made some startling
discoveries. “Within the frst few months, the new satellite
meter reading system helped us detect over 30 leaks on the
customers’ side of the meter,” said Fitzgerald. “That number
Satellite Meter Reading
Provides Smart Water Management for Remote Areas
BY ANU SOOD
AMR solution from IDT helps South Dakota water co-op resolve data issues
and meet leak-detection objectives.
With a service area of 8,000 square miles and only eight full-time
employees, WR/LJ needed a solution for gathering daily meter reads
without relying on its customers.