Water utility deploys mobile communications solution for meter data collection

Water Utilities

When a city is growing as rapidly as Eagle Mountain City, Utah, it can be challenging for the water utility to keep up. Eagle Mountain is an easy commute to both the Salt Lake City and Provo/Orem urban center, so it’s not surprising that the population has nearly doubled since 2010.

This kind of growth would be daunting for any service provider, but when the utility in question is operating disparate metering and meter-reading systems, it can be especially challenging.

“We’re using meters and smartpoints from multiple vendors,” said Eagle Mountain’s Public Utilities Manager Mack Straw. “When you’re adding 85 new accounts a month like we are that’s just asking for trouble.”

One solution

Eagle Mountain was determined to get ahead of these challenges by deploying new technology that would unite their metering capabilities under a single solution. They also sought the ability to gather and report meter data for more accurate billing while being better equipped to address customer issues such as leaks.

After a rigorous evaluation process, Eagle Mountain chose to standardize their meter and meter reading technologies with solutions from Sensus, a Xylem brand. To do this they selected the Sensus FlexNet EasyLink™ Mobile Communications solution, which allows technicians to automate the process of meter data collection through a portable, long-range radio device. With this approach, information is gathered through a single mobile reading device that collects data from both FlexNet SmartPoints and ERTS simultaneously.

“We needed to take the stress out of meter data collection and we believed the EasyLink solution would enable us to do that,” said Straw. “To get data in a fast and accurate manner means the world to us.”

In addition to unifying their meter reading capabilities with the EasyLink solution, Eagle Mountain began replacing their aging meters with Sensus iPERL® residential and OMNI™ commercial smart meters. To date the city has deployed approximately 2,000 of its 9,000 residential water meters, and they continue to do so as old meters begin to fail.

Easy time saver

Eagle Mountain’s new EasyLink solution is meeting their expectations for fast, accurate meter data collection. As technicians drive their routes the data collection covers a greater distance and is a tremendous time-saver.

“A process that used to take two technicians two days can now be done with just one technician in the same amount of time,” said Straw. “We’re hoping that with a little more fine-tuning we can get that down to one technician collecting all the meter data in just a single day. We’re a utility working with finite resources, so every hour we can save with the EasyLink solution is awesome.”

The new smart meters enable efficient billing and provide the city with better information to answer customer questions.

“The meters themselves will hold 30-45 days of data, and we’ve had to use that where people are questioning their water consumption,” said Straw. “One of the capabilities we really like is that even if internet access goes down, we can locally go grab that information without internet, so we’re still pulling data even without connectivity.”

Next steps

Deploying a new system without interrupting day to day water service is no simple task and Eagle Mountain has a supportive partner on the journey.

“The help we’ve gotten from Sensus has been invaluable—just top-notch support,” said Straw. “They’ve gone above and beyond our expectations, and we feel like whenever we contact them we’re being given top priority.”

Eagle Mountain anticipates making a full transition to Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), which will eliminate the need for drive-by meter reads altogether and automate the process of data collection over the Sensus FlexNet® communication network. With the city projected to grow to 120,000 residents by 2040, the team is confident that each new step will better equip them to meet the challenges of today’s growth while preparing for what’s next.

“We’re at the point of no return,” said Straw. “When all is said and done we’re expecting to be one of the largest cities in Utah, and we think the investments we make in technology now are going to pay off for years to come.”