Since meter readings are relayed via satellite, there is no requirement to install fixed radio towers or clustered repeaters — a definite advantage
for low-density, topographically-challenged rural water utilities like WR/LJ.
of detected leaks surprised us because we were hoping to
detect that many in a year.”
In all of the cases, individual service meters set off an alarm
that notifed the offce and feld staff of a spike in usage. The
fows (leaks) ranged from 4,000 up to 42,000 gallons per day.
One leak involved a board member of the water co-op who
was losing 13 gallons per minute.
“Not only were the customers very appreciative of these
calls, but narrowing our water loss to that level is something
we could never do before. It is now part of our mornings
to call customers whose meters have alarmed,” explained
Fitzgerald. “Our customers are always happy when we call,
and they know we’re saving them water when we call them.
They really appreciate that.”
SATELLITE METER READING FOR 100 PERCENT COVERAGE
Thinking back on his options, Fitzgerald recounted some of
the considerations that he worked through with DGR Engineering, the frm he worked with before the co-op ultimately
opted for a satellite meter reading system. “A lot of our customers’ meters are within river breaks, and so we knew that
with a drive-by meter reading system we would have to drive
a lot of miles to get close enough for a meter reading every
month. The operating costs were too high,” said Fitzgerald.
According to DGR Engineering’s John Madden, fxed radio
systems with towers and repeaters also did not meet the me-
tering demand for WR/LJ. “In a cost-versus-benefts study,
we found the infrastructure would cost millions of dollars for
a system that would only read about half of the meters,” ex-
INSTALLING SATELLITE METER READING SYSTEMS
Besides communication coverage, ease of installation was
another consideration for WR/LJ. Carstensen Contracting
was able to install two-thirds of the meter reading systems in
a four-month period. “It used to take us three months just to
complete an annual meter reading audit and another year to
have reliable data,” said Fitzgerald. “Having everything done
in four months completely changed the way we do things.”
“The board and I are happy with [this] solution. Most im-
portantly, the membership is pleased with the system,” said
Fitzgerald. “If a system works in our service area with all the
river breaks and badlands, it’s going to work anywhere.”
In addition to continuing to upgrade customer meters with
satellite meter reading systems, WR/LJ is considering IDT’s
Harmony Valve system, which allows utilities to remotely
switch customers’ water off and on or control other functions.
“[It] has the potential to further reduce our operating
costs,” said Fitzgerald. “Keeping our costs down means keeping water rates down for our customers.” WW
About the Author: Anu Sood is the Global Channel Marketing Manager at Sky Wave
Mobile Communications where she is focused on machine-to-machine (M2M) services and solutions for the transportation, oil & gas and utilities markets.
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