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Automated Meter Project

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Water meters throughout Tempe will be swapped out or upgraded with new, automated technology that can track water use in real time. City Council approved the project in May 2016 and the work will take place over the next few years. This will be the first fully automated system in the Valley.

Currently water meters are read manually, once a month, making it challenging to identify leaks or unusual water use in a timely manner. Manual meter reads also require extensive driving since a staff member has to drive by each meter. Once the new meter end points are in place, city staff will be able to see water meter readings in real time, from a remote location, eliminating the need to drive down every city street.

Future plans include a resident portal that will allow Tempeans to access and monitor their own water use. The portal is still in the planning process.

Tempe’s installation contractor, Metering Services Inc., will be conducting the swap outs and upgrades over the next several years. No service interruptions are expected. Residents will be notified on their monthly bill when their meter has been upgraded making it possible for their water use to be tracked in real time.

The new meters will feature an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) which will provide the remote technology enabling real time meter reading. Below is a basic design and flow of an AMI system.

new meter diagram

The major components of the system and their function are as follows:

Endpoint – attached to each meter; transmits hourly read data to collectors or repeaters

Repeaters – attached to either street lights or buildings/structures; receives data transmissions from endpoints and then transmits to collectors

Collectors – attached to either street lights or building/structures; receives data transmissions directly from endpoints or from repeaters and then transmits to meter data management system (MDMS)

MDMS – receives data transmissions from collectors; stores and analyzes meter data for reporting; provides monthly billable read to the utility billing system; also provides meter data to both customer and Customer Service staff portals

AMI Benefits

Implementation of this system will provide benefits in the following areas:

Customer Service
• Consistent billing cycles
• Improved billing accuracy
• Faster response times
• Early leak detection
• Enhanced transparency 

System Operations
• Reduced operational costs from elimination of manual meter reads
• Increased efficiency/control of water system management

• Reduced equipment operating and maintenance costs (estimated at $30,000 annually)
• Reduced water losses (estimated at $100,000 annually)
• Reduced labor costs (estimated at $300,000 annually)

• User dashboards (portals) help customers monitor and reduce consumption
• Early leak detection
• Reduced truck rolls
• Reduced carbon footprint
• Collection of water metrics that will enhance city’s ability to achieve conservation goals 

Other important benefits include significantly improved employee safety and the ability to be more proactive with our preventative maintenance program for our water system infrastructure.

Phase I of the project will consist of purchasing an installing the base hardware and software infrastructure of the system, including the installation of 5,000 endpoints. The system will be tested to ensure the successful endpoint data transmission of the meter reads to the billing system. Also the ability to obtain on demand reads will be tested during this phase. This first phase is anticipated to be complete by the first quarter of calendar 2017.

Phase II will consist of the deployment of the remaining endpoints and collectors/repeaters throughout the city once we are assured that the system is working as expected; this final phase is expected to be completed by first quarter calendar 2019.

Implementation of the AMI system will be closely coordinated with the city’s ongoing meter replacement project. Over the past several years, the city has been replacing its’ aging meter stock with new meters capable of working with various automated meter reading technologies available today.

Financial Impact

The estimated costs of deploying the AMI system is $7.75 million (includes the initial cost of hardware and software, and annual maintenance and support of the system over its 15-yr estimated life). However, the following estimated cost offsets are anticipated once full deployment is achieved:

• Annual labor costs savings: $300,000
• Annual vehicle costs savings: 30,000
• Annual unmetered water/theft reduction: 100,000

Once fully deployed, the estimated monthly utility bill impact is $0.25 and will be recovered as part of the monthly water and sewer charges billed to customers.

Read the full Council presentation on the new metering system for more information.