AMR Pilot programme enhances worker safety

The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) in Southern California is recognised throughout the USA as an innovator in water management practices. The utility is an active member of the American Water Works Association Qual Serve and is known for its leadership in water reclamation and conservation programmes. IRWD services a population of around 266,000 over a district of 133 square miles.

With deep pit water meters that need direct reading and maintenance, worker safety was the prime concern for IRWD, and a key decision factor in implementing a pilot AMR programme. The US Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA) lists confined space requirements that could not always be met, and the financial expense of manually reading and maintaining the large meters over a vast area had to also be considered.

IRWD decided to investigate alternatives, and implemented a pilot AMR programme which it hoped would alleviate these safety concerns and offer system-wide advantages. The utility also required the AMR system to meet a number of technology requirements:

  • Compatibility with existing meter vendors and read systems
  • Easy deployment and scalability
  • Virtually maintenance free over service life
  • Ten year warranty
  • Drive-by technology.

The ATR Solution

Advanced Technology RAMAR’s business partner, Metron-Farnier, demonstrated the FastTrackIT drive-by solution to IRWD. The AMR package addresses the safety issues by allowing the utility to reduce confined space reads to the lowest possible number. Meter readings are collected by an advanced radio receiver and transferred to a database housed in a mobile lap top computer. Further benefits include the fact that the system allows the utility to leverage the benefits of the more accurate metering offered by its maintenance-free single-jet meters, which have already shown a 9.6% average annual efficiency increase. In addition data accuracy is improved, because the data is collected automatically rather than being captured manually. The superior read distance offered by the TransPondIT meter interface unit solved access problems, and the ten-year warranty on the TransPondIT meter interface unit met the utility’s need for a leading product warranty.

Successful outcome

The pilot programme is still running at IRWD and operational efficiencies are evident, even though the final field analysis has not yet been completed. Meter reading time has been reduced by about 90% for the 104 sites surveyed, as the drive-by system replaces the manual method whereby two employees open the water pit and collect a visual read.

Joe Kindberg, customer service supervisor at IRWD, concludes: “IRWD has realised significant employee risk reduction due to the implementation of AMR.”

System Advantages:

  • Fewer estimated reads, therefore fewer customer complaints
  • More accurate meter reading leads to more accurate billing
  • Increased security from fewer water pit entries
  • Taxpayer savings due to lower meter-reading costs
  • Increased level of customer service as more staff resource is available
  • IRWD is able to redeploy capital resources to infrastructure improvements and customer service.

System Components:

TransPondIT
FastTrackIT
Laptop computer
Metron-Farnier Spectrum Meters
Digital encoded output
Automatic data logging

The TransPondIT is an RF receiving and transmitting device that is fitted to the meter. It listens continuously for a short code signal from the FastTrackIT drive-by data collection device and responds by submitting meter reading data.