Metering and AMR practices in Egypt

Close to 80 million people in Egypt will need improved water supply services by 2010. This is the ambitious goal of the Egyptian Holding Company for Water and Wastewater, which plans to use water treatment plants, pipe networks etc., to ensure that treated water is being delivered to customers all over Egypt with enough pressure for day-to-day use. This, of course, will require great amounts of funds and more efficient use of the current resources.

Because water is critical to survival, water service must be available to all at fixed rates, but these are inadequate to recover costs from users. Additionally, chaotic consumption patterns have evolved because of poor metering, billing and collection, with nonmetered flat rate customers being asked to pay much much more for water than they actually use. It was evident that in order for water utilities to work efficiently, drinking water must be conserved and customers should be charged realistic rates. Consumers should be encouraged to use less water, and at the same time pay for their actual consumption, which means an efficient metering and billing system.

Billing systems have evolved from a basic flat rate into full metering systems, in order to accurately bill each customer for the water consumed. As a result, the demand for water meters increases each year because of development and economic growth – the estimated annual demand for domestic water meters is 500,000 meters a year.

Domestic water meters have changed over time, and different technologies affect their accuracy and durability. Because of this, meter reading technologies are also changing. All meters are visually read in Egypt today, but new automatic meter reading technologies will be adopted in future.

A pilot AMR system has been deployed in the city of Nuweiba and is still under evaluation. In the evaluation of this pilot, the following items are considered:

  • Suitability for users (simplicity of the system, availability of technical and professional skills, and ease of introducing supporting activities such as staff training.
  • Availability of spare parts.
  • Funding for the O&M.
  • Cost and affordability.

The Nuweiba pilot was a combined water and electricity AMR prepaid system. This pilot was very useful in considering the AMR technologies, and as a result all meters to be used in Egypt from now on can be retrofitted with AMR capabilities. Although AMR systems are not yet widely used in Egypt, especially in the water sector, water utilities are considering a change to automatic meter reading systems.

Bulk metering systems are also evolving in Egypt, because of the need to control the unaccounted-for water in the distribution networks. Bulk meters are being installed, replaced or rehabilitated on the discharge pipes of the treatment plants, as well as on the tie-in points of the secondary distribution pipes with the main transmission pipes.

And to improve the bulk metering systems, SCADA systems are now being considered to accurately check the system for leaks.