One of Georgia’s smallest counties was losing more than $1 million in revenue every year because of meter inaccuracies. The Clayton County Water Authority (CCWA) was open to new ideas for stopping that revenue leakage, including exploring new monitoring and management tools. CCWA analyzed its entire metering operation with the help of Xylem digital solutions and embraced a data-driven approach to quantify their water balance and gain a better understanding of apparent losses. Once they identified their non-revenue water issues, they could make intelligent decisions on rates and capital expenditures.
Clayton County Water Authority is a good example of a utility that doesn’t let a confined geographical footprint stop it from thinking outside the box. As one of Georgia’s smallest counties in terms of land size area (only 143 square miles), its location near the top of a regional watershed means it has little area to gather precipitation into streams and rivers. With limited water supplies available in its own catchment area, CCWA is increasingly recognized as an industry leader for proactive water management approaches. Recently CCWA demonstrated this mindset by instituting a program that would harness the power of data analytics to achieve benefits such as increased revenue, better customer care and wiser capital spending — all by targeting an invisible source of system leakage: apparent water loss.
Searching for innovative solutions to combat revenue leakage
Located in a state with some of the strictest efficiency and water conservation regulations in the country, and a growing population, CCWA has been addressing water loss across its entire system. Apparent water loss (defined as water that is consumed, but not properly measured, accounted for or paid for) is a type of non-revenue water, and is a significant source of revenue leakage for many utilities. On average, about 5 percent of retail water is not registered at the meter, or is unbilled for, representing approximately 2 percent of a utility’s top-line revenue.
In looking for an innovative solution to address these issues, CCWA partnered with Xylem to develop a meter management program to quantify its ongoing state of apparent water loss. Traditional approaches to meter replacement focus on factors such as random testing, age, and water loss balance reviews, usually conducted annually. This approach is inaccurate because meter degradation is not strongly correlated to any of these factors, and replacement strategies based on sampling techniques leave bad meters in the field while throwing perfectly good ones away. This makes it hard to tackle apparent loss in a capital-efficient way.
CCWA was open to exploring new solutions using intelligent monitoring and management tools that allow them to undertake a prioritized, economically justified meter replacement program. They refused to follow the status quo of random or time-based meter replacement, and instead were driven to identify customer metering accuracies, quantify the apparent water loss and improve operational efficiencies — all without raising rates.
Using data to understand the revenue leakage
CCWA embraced a data-driven approach to quantify their water balance and gain a better understanding of apparent losses. Once they identified their non-revenue water issues, they could make intelligent decisions on rates and capital expenditures.
As part of a two-phase program, CCWA analyzed its entire metering operation with the help of Xylem Revenue Locator, part of Xylem’s suite of Digital Solutions. The online cloud-based analytics solution helps identify and rank customer meters within their system that are losing revenue due to meter degradation. This information would allow CCWA to prioritize a meter testing and replacement program, maximize revenue recovery and realize operational efficiencies. With this intelligent solution, potential issues are identified at the meter-level on an ongoing basis, and an online dashboard would allow CCWA to view prioritized issues, ranked by the total volume and revenue discrepancy per meter.
In addition to revealing that meter under-registration was their biggest source of apparent water loss, the data successfully demonstrated which meters were under-registering. Armed with this information, CCWA was able to focus its resources on addressing this issue, prioritizing action and capitalizing on recouping revenue losses.
Prioritizing action and enhancing efficiency
In just over four years, the Xylem Revenue Locator solution has already identified over $1 million in annual lost revenue due to meter inaccuracies. On a per-meter basis, the meter management solution has flagged revenue loss on average of $6 for residential meters and $67 for non-residential meters per year.
Armed with this information, CCWA prioritized its meter asset management program, focusing on the meter category where the largest revenue losses had been identified - larger industrial and commercial metering equipment. Not only has the data given CCWA a better understanding of its apparent water loss issues, but it also provides a path forward to recover significant revenue lost because of under-performing meters.
When compared to the random meter tests previously performed by CCWA, the Xylem Revenue Locator delivered a four-fold improvement in identifying meter-registering gaps, on aging and potentially damaged C&I meters, uncovering even more lost revenue. Based on the data and recommendations provided by Xylem, CCWA was able to defer capital replacement dollars, identify and address apparent water loss across their system, and focus efforts on other priorities.
Clayton County’s restructured approach to water monitoring is just one example of how Xylem is advancing innovation that helps utilities build operational and financial resilience. Xylem’s digital solutions can help utilities improve cash flow and service affordability, ensure compliance and operating performance, reduce revenue leakage and build system resilience.
Learn more about Xylem’s digital solutions that are enabling the power of decision intelligence.