Smart Metering Update
Council has received some questions in relation to the role-out of the Smart Metering project and as part of the ongoing communication seeks to address some of these questions and provide additional information to residents.
This project is a component of a larger program aimed at reducing non-revenue water. Non-revenue water is water that has been treated and is then lost from the network infrastructure, through either unbilled (authorised) consumption, apparent losses (unauthorised consumption - water theft, meter inaccuracies) and real losses (leakage). This project seeks to address meter inaccuracies to reduce to the amount non-revenue water which currently equates to between 30 – 36% of the amount of water that Council purchases and treats. Our target is to reduce this below 15% over the coming years.
With improved meter accuracy comes the potential for increased bills. Because of the age of the meters we expect there is a high number of meters that are incorrectly registering. When these types of meters fail they will read less rather than more, so when your new meter is installed some residents may see a slight increase in their usage whilst others may see a significant rise. Council is mindful of the potential impact on the residential bill and proposed options to minimise potential bill shock will be presented to Council for adoption at the June Council Meeting.
The new system is considered a best practice tool which will help Council deliver water services to the community as cost-effectively as possible. The customer portal is expected to create greater sense of community awareness and responsibility towards the use of water.
The ‘real-time’ readings at properties means that Council and residents can regularly review water use and monitor for any indication of a leak, leading to cost savings for residents in relation to excess water charges. There is no direct cost to residents associated with the installation of the meter at properties or for access to the customer portal. The Smart Meter project is being funded through Council’s Water Fund, and will not result in any increase in water rates for residents.
The automatic meter reading or AMR devices are being used more frequently throughout Australia. Other councils who have implemented Smart Metering report that they have been able to identify customer leaks within the first weeks of the meters being installed, not only saving water but reducing the cost to residents. Federation Council, located in the Riverina region of New South Wales, reported in its first weeks of operation almost 200 leak notices were delivered to households and businesses notifying of a potential problem.
A common question asked is how do the meters detect leaks? Smart meters have the ability to collect and send data every 7 seconds. Over a 24 hour period it is expected that there should be a period where the meter reads zero consumption. When the system detects that a zero reading has not been recorded it sends a notification that a problem may exist. Below is Case Study example of leak detection using smart metering.
Council Moving to Smart Metering
Council resolved at the February 2019 Ordinary Meeting of Council to proceed with the implementation of Smart Metering across the water network. Council has now entered into a contract with Taggle Systems Pty Ltd and will be rolling the program out in the coming months.
Over a number of years Council has been undertaking works in accordance with recommendations contained within the Water Loss Management Plan. The Water Loss Management Plan identified that at the time, Council was losing approximately 36% of the water after it was treated or purchased from WaterNSW. Council has implemented and undertaken a number of actions from the Plan which has resulted in some improvement, yet at the end of the 2017/18 financial year Council’s losses were still at 30% or in dollar terms, over a million dollars of lost revenue.
One of the recommendations of the Water Loss Management Plan was to develop a meter replacement policy which included reviewing the current meters installed. The analysis of the meter fleet indicates that more than 50% of the meters currently installed exceed 20 years with only a slight reduction in this percentage at 25 years. What this indicates is that nearly half of the meters currently installed are the original meters that were installed when metering was first undertaken in the 1990’s.
Industry practice determines that the useful life of a mechanical water meter, which is your common household water meter, is 10 years, with some manufacturers claiming 20 years useful life. After a period of 8 years use, the meter will begin to incorrectly measure the amount of water passing through. When meters begin to fail, in all but exceptional cases, the meter under registers.
To address this major issue as well as providing additional benefits, Council has resolved to undertake a meter replacement program with an Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system or more commonly known, Smart Metering. The benefits that can be achieved include but are not limited to:
- The ability for customers and Council to identify leaks early within private properties;
- Automatic monitoring with alarms that can detect if changes occur within the system that require attention, e.g. leaks, freezing, no water, meter tampering;
- Customers may monitor their own usage through an online portal should they choose to sign up;
- Avoidance of bill shock with near real-time data on consumption and excess use alarms;
- Extend the lifespan of the network through optimised operations and proactive maintenance
Mayor Thompson provides “this is one of many actions Council is undertaking to better manage our water infrastructure to ensure long term sustainable outcomes. Being able to better account for our water means that we have been able to maintain the current cost of water rates for the next financial year”.
Other councils who have implemented Smart Metering report that they have been able to identify customer leaks within the first weeks of the meters being installed, not only saving water but reducing the cost to residents.
Director of Water and Wastewater, Daniel Buckens says “once your new meter is installed Council will receive an alarm from the system to notify staff of a possible leak. When these are received Council will issue the resident a Leak Notice to inform the resident of possible leak. Once the system is fully operational residents will be able to register to the MiWater portal and see in near real time their own water consumption, configure their own alarms so that they will get notification directly via SMS or email”.
Frequently Asked Questions and Fact Sheets about the meter replacement project and Smart Metering are available on Council’s website, at the Administration Building at 180 Mort Street, Lithgow and will be provided with upcoming water bill. For general enquires about the project or Smart Metering please call Council’s Water and Wastewater Department on 63549999