City plugging leaky money drains

By Geoff Lee

October 25, 2017 2:10 PM

Ken Urban, senior manager water services for the City of Lloydminster, spoke at the Rotary Club of Lloydminster Monday luncheon on the installation and benefits of a new Advanced Metering Infrastructure program that will save the city and water customer’s big bucks. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

Water is money.
The City of Lloydminster is hoping the implementation of its $1.8 Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system will prevent revenue from going down the drain with more accurate meter reads.
Ken Urban, the city’s senior manager of water services, briefed the Rotary Club of Lloydminster on AMI and the rollout of new radio transmitters being installed in city properties.
Urban described the current meter reading procedure as a walk by or drive by system, to physically take a reading every two months.
“It doesn’t tell us what is happening in that two months,” he said, while AMI will generate hourly water data from the transmitters.
Neptune Technology Group Inc. has installed about 1,000 radio transmitters on Lloyd properties so far, with another 9,000 to go on their $1.5 million install contract with the city.
The system includes three towers or collector systems, which are located through the city.
“They collect data from radio transmitters that are located on every property and they provide some redundancy where towers may pick up more than one radio, so if there is any downtime on a tower, the other tower will pick up that information,” said Urban.
He estimates the system will pay for itself in about 15 years.
“It’s $90,000 a year just in operational savings,” said Urban, who noted the city is also replacing about 500 meters a year.
Urban told Rotary how AMI will support customer service, provide increased operating efficiencies and cost reduction, while sustaining and increasing revenue and reducing water loss.
“It’s lost revenue for the city if we can’t capture that usage, but it also helps the customer to help them reduce their water use if they know there is a leak going on or if there is abnormal usage going on,” he said.
AMI will assist customers with high water consumption complaints as it tracks water usage hourly, and can send alarms or notices to the customer when abnormal use is detected.
“The system will flag us,” said Urban who has worked for the city for more than 33 years.
“We will set up certain parameters, let’s say, if you have a continuous leakage for three or four days, then we will have a system set up to notify you that you shouldn’t have this usage.”
He said the AMI system will provide an easy transition to monthly billing and cut staff meter visits that numbered 1,363 in one 12-month period.
The system has proven to reduce lost revenue from dead meters and lost readings in real time, versus the billing cycle.
The system has also enabled the city to initiate back charges of about $705,000 in 2015-16, with estimated revenue going forward of about $651,000.
Urban noted field investigations and a water audit the city conducted led to increased revenue from replacing inaccurate meters and by identifying water thefts.
Some people had never paid for water for more than 20 years.
They also found some bypass lines open and billing system errors from wrong sized meters.
Urban said the audit revealed the city only lost 7.8 per cent of its water coming from its plant, which is pretty low.
“Most cities in Canada do not do water audits, so they have no idea how much water they are losing,” he said.
“I’ve heard towns in this area are as high as 50 per cent.”
He said water audits are really prevalent in the States where there is a water shortage.
“Everyone relates water audits with water shortages, but we took a different approach,” said Urban.
“We use water audits as a way of reducing wastage. but also increasing revenue for the city—now we know where water is going.”
He said a lot of changes have happened since the city conducted their water audits.

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