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How to Utilize Asset Management Software to Reduce Non-Revenue Water

Kurt West
May 27, 2020 6:44:04 PM

Properly keeping track of your assets can save you money. Asset management for water utilities can help decrease water losses and increase efficiency of the utility system through a good integration with the billing system and meter software.  

You can provide the utility additional revenue and cash flow and reduce non-revenue water when properly utilizing a good asset management software solution.                 

What is non-revenue water?

In simple terms, non-revenue water (NRW) is water that is pumped and then lost before it reaches the customer. Non-revenue water comes from a variety of places -- through leaks (physical losses) or meter inaccuracies (apparent losses). 

Start with your unbilled water. There are calibration issues with legacy meters and they need to be calibrated from time to time. If you have a water meter that isn't working right, you may be under charging or overcharging a customer. First, figure out how much water is being billed for and compare that to how much water is being pumped into the system.

Many utilities are adopting advanced metering and/or billing solutions for proper tracking and reporting of water being sold to customers, but these systems on their own fail to address many of the root causes and ultimate fixes to reduce NRW.             

Utilizing asset management for water utilities to reduce non-revenue water  

According to your billing cycle, merely reading a meter once a month or once a quarter will not get you real-time data on water consumption. However, many advanced meters have real time analytics that can integrate back into Utility Cloud. Many utilities do not use this data to its full potential or leave it just in a billing system. If you've got a really strong integration between your asset management software and your billing software, you can reduce your non-revenue water by gaining insights to when and when water is being pumped, consumed, and billed for.     

Are there ways to help dispatch people to manage meter reads, meter calibrations or meter replacement programs? Asset management software for water utilities is integrated with a billing/CIS system so you can set up workflows and analyses to figure out how much water was unbilled or lost. Not to mention, it will also allow for better meter water consumption so your compliance reports run smoothly.  

Outside of direct NRW, you can also use GIS and asset management software to find how many sewer customers aren't getting billed when they should be, one way to see an ROI on asset management and define places that aren't being billed for. Utility Cloud was recently used by Glaucester, MA to find nearly 50 water and sewer customers that were not receiving a sewer bill that should have been.                            

Non-revenue water reporting   

When it comes to your non-revenue or water loss reporting, managing your water is critical, as a decrease in water loss results in an increase in billings and income. The industry average for billed water is above 80%, so you want under 20% of water losses. 

In the United States, water loss is estimated at 10 to 30% -- mostly due to leaky, aging pipes and outdated systems. In fact, the federal government places the losses from leaks at about 16%, which amounts to an estimated 2.1 trillion gallons of non-revenue water per year. 

After implementing a water loss control program over 20 years ago, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has reduced leakage by over 30 million gallons per day. By controlling customer metering and billing errors, it has resulted in an additional $15 million in revenue.  

It’s not only important to control customer meters and billing errors, but reporting on your non-revenue water also includes tracking flushing programs, leakages and thefts -- the most common factors attributed to water loss.                

Flushing programs    

You can lose water through your flushing programs, which is almost like a trade-off, as you want to flush enough water to keep your system clean and sustain the best water quality, but you also want to be able to account for that.

Track your flushing programs with a digitally enabled flow meter so you can quantify how much water you put on the ground when you’re flushing programs and push this data automatically back to Utility Cloud to store and analyze this data    

Leakages and thefts 

The next culprits to non-revenue water are leakages and thefts. 

In order to track leaks and thefts, you need to start with a good, solid inventory of all of your water main service connections and deploy a leak detection program. You can perform leak detection surveys with software. This includes good metering technology.  

Asset management software can tell you if there are leaks and who is exceeding normal usage on the customer side of the meter using real-time metering monitors.      

How does this work? If a household that historically uses X number of gallons of water a day, and that rate doubles or triples, your software could send an alert to the homeowners say “hey, you might have a leak or you're way higher than your water uses today”. This will allow you to reduce non-revenue water.        

Increasing revenue with asset management software for water utilities 

How can asset management software increase revenue for water utilities? 

Asset management software for water utilities provides good insights into your integration’s pumping data. So, whether you are tracking it through tank inspections or tank reads, or even just skating information off of pump run times and in flow rates, you can tell how much water is being put out into a system. That, along with meter data can help you determine how efficient a system is. 

For example, when you think about how a water tank is filled up, you need to create a force to maintain pressure in your network. If you fill the water tank up against peak usage and have the water draw down from the tank, overnight, you will essentially be putting water up into the tank with your pumps.              

Increasing efficiencies in the system can be done through correlating billing data and real-time monitoring on meter readings. This allows you to find optimal times for off peak hours so you can instantaneously fill the water tank up. All of these factors contribute to an increase in revenue.        

If you can make a fingerprint of your network and learn the habits of how people in your area use water and when they use it, you can optimize your pump to water tank times based on interval and usage. This allows you to optimize how utility fills its tanks so you're able to deploy pressure management techniques and reduce losses, simply because you're not over-pressuring leaky pipes. This is a huge step towards reducing water loss.    

Next, you need to be able to get your people out there as fast as possible in order to fix the leaks. Why not give them a good mapping tool so they know where they are going and you can find out where they are? Asset management software provides all parties insights and pictures of where the utilities are located.     

Capital planning    

Capital and conservation planning are also crucial in reporting on non-revenue water. With capital planning, you can overlap projects together and decide what would be the best bang for your dollar. For example, you can take a non-revenue water project, a stormwater CCTV inspection project and even just a general road inspection to determine when, where and how to dig through the road, fix a pipe, or pay for construction.             

With conservation planning, you can reduce demands on wastewater systems and reduce costs while preserving environmental resources.    

Utility Cloud will launch what's called a water loss control program which is a framework for a water loss problem you're seeking to improve.      

Audit and evaluation   

An audit and evaluation is the first step in determining what’s right for the utility. You need to audit the ways and methods that people can implement water loss control problems. Then, you can start to do an evaluation using lead detection programs, pressure management, and asset management.          

Utilize asset management software for water utilities to help you reduce non-revenue water and manage your water distribution network effectively. Things like meter monitoring, billing solutions, leak detection, and capital planning will allow you to develop a better understanding of where to spend money and what may or may not be leaking. This makes it easier so that when you go through a capital improvement plan, you have that good asset information in your accident management system or water loss program.      

Download Free Water Asset Management Plan Guide          

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