Drinking water utilities across the United States are at a turning point. Faced with crumbling infrastructure that is harder than ever to pay for, and with extreme weather events making raw supplies hard to come by, it’s no surprise the American Society of Civil Engineers assigned U.S drinking water utilities a “D.”
Each year 240,000 water mains break in the U.S, dramatic reminders that our pipes are silently leaking an average of 16% of their total volume. Indeed, every day 6 billion gallons of potable water are lost, and with every drop, lost revenue that should be going to water utilities.
Bad news, bad billing
But leaky pipes are just one aspect leading to so-called “Non-revenue water (NRW)”, or the difference between the volume of water sent into the distribution system and the amount of water actually billed. Inadequate or outdated billing systems mean some ratepayers can be overcharged, and others undercharged, a scenario common throughout the country which aggravates a utility’s already strained financial health.
Indeed, the water infrastructure funding gap between what needs to be built and what can be built under current budgets will balloon to $84 billion over the next two years.
Worn down meters, incorrect meter sizing, mismatched meters, and other data drains mean that it’s nearly impossible to accurately account for actual water delivery.
The cost of doing nothing
NRW is a drain on a utility’s ability to provide potable drinking water to its ratepayers at an affordable rate. The EPA has estimated that NRW costs utilities somewhere around $2.6 billion every year, money that could close the massive funding gap that stands in the way of a utility doing the work it wants to do to best serve its ratepayers.
Data everywhere, but not a drop to drink
A utility’s ability to track, and more importantly use, the data it gathers from the field varies greatly across the country, where small to mid-size entities often would like to upgrade to automatic meters that better track water movement, and importantly track actual water usage to increase billing efficiency and track leaks.
Funding – and importantly implementing – these automatic meters systems, however, can be challenging for smaller utilities, simply because these smaller entities don’t have the critical mass of users to pay for expensive upgrades and get a decent rate of return in the process. Even if funding is secured in a general climate of fiscal austerity, concurrently developing a data crunching program to manage the deluge of data that comes from automatic meters is daunting when meter tracking historically is done on a monthly basis, inputted onto clipboards.
Getting meta with meters
Tracking where the water flows and how it is used is critical for a water utility’s ability to address leaky pipes, ensure healthy billing, and recover lost revenue in the process. But when do you know if a meter is failing? Even if smart meters are installed, establishing the health and thereby the accuracy of meters can be challenging.
Find the revenue to serve the ratepayers
FATHOM addresses the above problems head on with its Smart Grid for Water solution, a managed service offering with which utilities can easily finance the deployment of automatic meters using the savings FATHOM uncovers, leveraging best-in-class data analysis tools tailor made by water pros, for water pros.
To learn how to increase the volume of water registered by your systems, decrease costs, and find revenue to help maintain your critical infrastructure, click here to access our whitepaper.