Management of Ra'anana's Water System improves conservation and saves costs
Ra’anana is situated on about 15 km², surrounded by substantial agricultural areas. As in most cities and towns in Israel, the municipality is the local water authority or utility.
There are approximately 24,000 water meters in Ra’anana, including residential, commercial, industrial and distribution meters. Almost two-thirds of the water meters in the city are in multi-family dwellings, with the balance in single family dwellings, businesses and commercial sites.
After identifying the need for a better way to manage the city’s water system, the city of Ra’anana published a public tender for an automatic meter reading system that would meet the following criteria:
- Minimum impact upon the environment and the residents, both during installation and system operation.
- System life of at least ten years.
- Reasonable cost and installation time.
- Fixed network, multiple reads per day.
- Historical data base with analytical tools.
- Interface to all municipality systems, including billing, CRM, water system management, etc.
- Ability to determine non-advancing meters, pipe bursts, extraordinary consumption, tampering (meter or system) and unaccounted-for water usage on a timely basis.
- AMR company with experience in the field.
It was clear that the city of Ra’anana understood that meter reading was not the main criterion, and that there could only be a compelling case for AMR if it provided total management of the city’s water system.
In August 2000 the city awarded the tender to Miltel Communications Ltd., the developer and manufacturer of the SpeedRead system. During the first phase, a pilot system was to be installed where every aspect of the system was to be proven – from the meter connection through the AMR network to the AMR control centre and on into each of the city’s legacy systems. The pilot would only be deemed successful once consumer bills had been produced over six months.
The pilot system was installed in two areas of the city – an older section and an area of new construction – in order to verify that the system would work in any environment. Most importantly, the objective was to prove that the system could be retrofitted to the existing municipal infrastructure.
A total of 1,200 meters were connected for the pilot phase (about 5% of the city’s meters) after they had been upgraded to ensure AMR compatibility. A concentrator was installed in each of the two sections of the city, and a repeater was installed in one area. The SpeedNet control centre management system was also installed in the municipality operations centre. In the field, the transmitters sent meter readings and other critical data six times per day, either directly to a concentrator or via a repeater. The control centre management system downloaded the concentrator data three times per day. The collected data was analysed, alerts were sent out, management reports were produced, and all data elements were interfaced to the city’s legacy systems.
In effect, the city had successfully implemented a complete AMR consumption management system on a small scale.
In August 2001, the city of Ra’anana signed a long-term contract with Miltel for installation of the entire system. The meters will be monitored by a wireless fixed network system that will include approximately 12,000 transmitters, 20 repeaters, and three or four concentrators. All this field infrastructure will communicate via the concentrators to the control centre management system. The transmitters used in the Ra’anana system are multi-meter (as well as multi-utility) transmitters, and substantial savings in capital costs have been achieved because of the high percentage of multi-family and duplex dwellings in the city. The most expensive component in an AMR system is the transmitter unit. In Ra’anana, the ratio of meters per transmitter is slightly higher than 2:1 – thus this portion of the capital cost was halved.
By April 2002 some 10,000 meters had been connected to the Miltel system. The rate of installation of the AMR system is governed by the rate at which the municipality replaces or upgrades meters. At present, between 1,000 and 1,500 meters are being connected each month, and completion is scheduled for mid-2003.
The city and the residents who are connected to the system continue to be extremely satisfied with its performance and the benefits that have already been identified. Some of these benefits are:
Problematic Meter Reading Eliminated (difficult to access, private yards, dogs, owner/tenant objection, worker safety).
Non-Advancing Meters Identified (within days, not three months as before). Extraordinary Consumption Warnings Generated (profile consumer/consumption group, changes in consumption pattern identified).
Leakages Detected (both at the transmitter and the control centre level)
Burst Pipes (notification by transmitter to concentrator as an ‘Event’, concentrator contacts control centre).
Hierarchical Reporting Shows Unaccounted-for Water Usage (many cases of unaccounted-for water usage due to incorrect meter size, weekly/monthly volume analysis by meter diameter)
Customer Inquiries/Disputes (inquiries regarding bills reduced, disputes settled almost immediately, fewer write-downs on consumer bills, no estimated bills, no special reads (especially in high turnover properties).
Water loss has already been reduced. If the target to reduce water loss by 5% annually is reached, the city will realise a savings in excess of $250,000 per year (or $2.5 million over the life of the project).
Even though the number of inquiries initially increased, because of consumer responses to notifications about the installation of the system, an overall reduction in CRM personnel is now evident. Data and reports from the control centre management system provide a level of detail that enables the city’s CRM personnel to close a dispute after one contact with the consumer in most instances.
The implementation of the system has raised consumer awareness of water conservation, and has increased consumers’ appreciation of the municipality and the services it offers. The city currently bills its consumers on a bi-monthly basis, to avoid the costs of generating monthly bills. It intends to offer discounts to those consumers who agree to pay on a monthly basis via the Internet. This facility is a natural extension of the SpeedNet consumption management system.
Bills were prepared each month for one-half of the city. As a byproduct of the process, technician call-outs for customer inquiries and other identified problems tended to be grouped around the bill delivery dates. This process can now occur throughout the month, which will lead to a reduction in manpower costs.
Prior to implementation of the SpeedRead system, the city read its meters manually six times per year. In addition, there were approximately 5,000 special reads performed every year. This cost will now be eliminated at a saving of about $75,000 per year ($750,000 over the life of the project). Ra’anana expects to grow at about 4% per year. All the cost savings will increase proportionately, resulting in even greater savings for the city.