Southern California’s Coachella Valley is the site for a new advanced water metering demonstration project, following the recent approval of an agreement between the valley City of Palm Desert and the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD).

The agreement was approved at the City’s June 25 council meeting, with the council also agreeing to contribute funding of $20,000 for the project.

The project is aimed at addressing the potential and cost effectiveness of automatic meter reading (AMR) for reducing water consumption and the associated peak electricity demand for water agencies in California.

In particular objectives include shifting customer water and associated electricity use from peak to non-peak periods, shifting landscape water use from daytime to nighttime hours, controlling leaks, assessing the potential cost effectiveness for reducing peak water and energy demands on water systems, and assessing customer response to water and energy conservation as well as possible time-of-use incentives.

The project began in May, with CVWD recruiting 100 customers for the trial, of which 60 are residential, 20 are commercial and 20 are outdoor irrigation sites.

While it is still early days, from the data that has been collected so far the project participants “are doing a better job conserving during peak hours than those who are not,” CVWD spokesman Jack Porrelli was quoted as saying.

In its project overview, the CVWD points out that California’s water infrastructure uses a tremendous amount of energy to collect, move and treat water, dispose of wastewater, and power the large pumps that move water throughout the state. Water-related electricity is the single largest user of electricity in California, accounting for eight percent of the state’s electricity use. When waste water disposal and water heating and cooling are also included, it accounts for roughly 20 percent of the state’s electricity consumption. Because water and energy are so closely associated, water conservation will also save electricity.

“By using AMR technology we have the potential to monitor when consumers use water. Consequently, we may be able to assist customers in modifying their time-of-day water use to other, lower energy use times of the day,” says the CVWD.

Other participants in the project are the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the California Energy Commission, which is providing funding of $400,000, and Southern California Edison.

The CVWD, formed in 1918, supplies domestic water to more than 102,000 customers in an approximately 1,000 square mile service area mostly within the Coachella Valley and extending into small portions of Imperial and San Diego counties, including 60,000 acres of highly productive farmland.