Beyond Billing Data: Expanding the Benefits of Two-Way AMI in Water

Fixed network systems offer more than measuring consumption for billing

Properly engineered and deployed there is a clear and proven business case for using advanced metering infrastructure in water to efficiently collect water meter data. AMI can offer a more detailed, higher-resolution profile of water consumption. This information can help customers better understand the relationship between their consumption and their bill. It can also help utilities better manage their operations.

Yet, the two-way communications network found in today’s modern AMI systems opens up new possibilities. It offers utilities the opportunity to layer in new functionality, either into an existing AMI network or into a new project.

Proactive Leak Management

Leak detection and location technologies offer real-world here-and-now opportunities for water utilities to extract zonescan-MTU-yellow-cord_12192011more value from their fixed network systems. STAR ZoneScan, offered from Aclara Technologies LLC, was developed jointly by Aclara and Gutermann International, a Swiss-based developer of acoustic leak detection systems, and can ride piggyback on Aclara’s STAR two-way fixed network. The same network can carry both water meter and leak detection data.

ZoneScan detects leaks by analyzing acoustic samples taken from sensors placed along a water utility’s distribution system. These sensors are placed on valves, ideally one unit for every 500 feet of main. By comparing an acoustic sample of one sensor against another, during an identical snippet of time, ZoneScan can recognize a leak. More than that it can accurately locate the leak using a Web-based data correlation software tool. Aclara’s Product Manager Dean Slejko explains, “A critical feature of STAR ZoneScan is the ability to use the AMI infrastructure to provide time synchronization signals to the data loggers. The data loggers all start listening at the exact same time, and listen to the exact same time slice of noise. By doing that, they can then compare that time slice between adjacent loggers and crunch the numbers to determine where exactly between those loggers the noise source is located. The location is pinpointed between those loggers.”

Proactive leak detection saves money and resources. Every drop of water contains embedded costs, including energy. To spend resources to treat and pump water only to lose it through distribution is a sad reality for most utilities. On the other hand, if the solution costs more than the value of water lost, it’s hard to create an argument for proactive leak detection. Because ZoneScan allows for remote control through STAR network, utilities can approach proactive leak detection at a lower cost.