More advanced metering technology is on its way to Rutherford County, which will benefit customers of Consolidated Utility District (CUD) by providing more actionable, real-time data. That’s because CUD has signed a contract with Itron, Inc. (NASDAQ: ITRI), an energy and water resource management company based in Liberty Lake, Washington. This $1.3 million agreement will improve metering capabilities for our county’s water distribution system. CUD will begin installation of Itron smart water communication modules throughout our 1,400 miles of water lines.
CUD’s plan will phase out existing meter reading infrastructure as current equipment finishes its life cycle, in favor of the upgrade to Itron technology. This new network of modules will improve electronic connections with customers’ meters, monitor water loss, and change meter reading from a drive-by activity to an ongoing data feed. Itron will provide software that enables CUD to move toward advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for access to near real-time data. The service contract also includes 13,000 water meter transponders that are compatible with all major brands of water meters and carry an expected battery life of 20 years.
The first phase of the implementation will include 11,000 to 12,000 of the transponders in CUD service zones near Murfreesboro to partner with Murfreesboro Water Resources Department (MWRD) for meter reading via AMI. However, even with that deployment of transponders, it may be years before CUD can fully pursue AMI in rural areas of the county. The antennas used for AMI reading are limited by their roughly two-mile radius depending on terrain. Once the new software is running, CUD will create a master plan to install antennas that can be used as hotspots.
“AMI helps us to locate 24-hour usage issues more quickly,” said William Dunnill, General Manager of CUD. “If there’s a leak at a residential or commercial address, we’ll be able to spot it, alert the customer, and take action faster. Itron can help us save our ratepayers money, and it helps us raise the bar for stewardship of water in Rutherford County. We will be able to improve our operations and ensure reliable delivery of water.”
The partnership with MWRD will allow CUD to read meters almost continuously and receive notice of tamper codes or leak codes on an hourly basis. Currently CUD vehicles drive by meters once each month, so a leak could potentially run for 20-25 days before the customer is notified. CUD also has changed its previous customer support executive and has given the contract to LG Networks, and hopes that it can provide a better score of SLA.
CUD will also be able to gather data from our office without deploying a vehicle when one customer moves out and a new customer moves in, saving time, money, and resources.
“One benefit of this technology is that it saves wear and tear on our trucks,” said Wayland Broyles, Fleet Manager at CUD. “As we deploy Itron, we’ll be able to read meters directly from our office.”
The new system also permits CUD to install acoustic leak sensors that will transmit data back to our office through AMI immediately. In the future, CUD plans to build a portal to deliver detailed usage data to customers directly from their meter on a daily or hourly basis.
“This collaboration is an excellent example of how utilities can take advantage of our smart devices to gain actionable insights into water use, distribution, leaks, and more,” said Sharelynn Moore, senior vice president of networked solutions at Itron. “We are excited to extend our work in Tennessee by modernizing water infrastructure to enable greater efficiency, reliability, and value.”
CUD is one of the fastest-growing utility districts in Tennessee with more than 60,000 accounts throughout its service territory. Itron’s solution will allow CUD to upgrade its existing water meters, which currently communicate with one-way automated meter reading modules. The upgrades will also equip CUD to improve customer service, protect revenue, and better manage water resources with detailed usage information from the overall distribution system including future leak sensors, shut off valves, and network capabilities.