Th is will allow the city to more ac-

This will allow the city to more accurately measure the amount of water its
customers are consuming—and increase
the amount the city bills for water use
each month.
The new system will also allow the
city to better uncover water leaks in the
system as the fixed-network discovers
unexpected water use spikes. Madison
officials can also rely on the fixed-network
system to measure the impact of their
water conservation measures; the network
can determine if consumers are actually
using less water after the city targets their
communities with conservation messages
and programs.
Piper says that the city had the choice
to upgrade to an AMR system. But officials
decided that if the city was going to move
to a new technology, it should invest in
the more advanced AMI fixed-network
for water will help the City of Madison
Water Utility bring its metering system to
the next level by enabling the automation
of reads and other advanced metering
capabilities,” said Paula Billingham, Itron
regional vice president and managing
director for North America, Water, in a
written statement.
“At Itron, it is our priority to deliver solutions that help our customers
achieve their business goals. We are excited to do just that for Madison Water
Utility,” adds Billingham.
Cities must
often justify
upgrades with
proper ROI
Parks, from Neptune, says that his company can help utilities make a detailed ROI
analysis of the savings and payback period
that an upgraded AMR or AMI system
would provide them.
Neptune offers its AMR/AMI Advisor
solution. With this technology, the City
of Madison will move from a six-month
water-meter billing cycle to a more costeffective one-month cycle.
“We decided to skip over the end of
last century’s technology and go with a
fixed-network system,” says Piper.
The city began rolling out the system
on a limited basis in late July. But even
though there isn’t any official data yet on
its impact, Piper is looking forward to an
increase in water revenues and a reduction
in water loss throughout the system.
“We think this system will have a
positive impact on our water budget,” says
Piper. “That’s why we went with the fixednetwork AMI system. We wanted to see
that high return on investment.”
Officials with Itron also say that they
expect Madison to realize financial savings
from its investment. “Itron’s AMI solution
software that allows utilities to plug in the
variables of their operation and their costs.
The software then determines an estimate
of the utilities’ annual cost savings and
revenue increases. “This gives them a good
look at the impact of AMR/AMI technology,” says Parks. “We’ve seen a lot of our
customers use this to determine that,
yes, they will see significant savings and
revenue increases by installing the right
AMR/AMI system.”
Parks, though, says that each utility needs to look at its own needs before
making the decision to upgrade to new
automated metering technology.
Some systems may work better for
larger utilities in urban areas, for instance, but might not be as effective for
utilities serving a smaller, rural area. “In
this industry, there is always some technology that generates a lot of buzz,” says
Parks. “Right now, there is a ton of buzz
over fixed-network infrastructures. They
are right for some utilities—for some
utilities they make a lot of sense. But for
others, a mobile or a combination of a
mobile and fixed-network deployment
makes more sense.”
What does a utility have to consider
when deciding what upgrades its needs?
Parks recommends that utilities look at
their demographics and service areas, and
at the terrain that they have to cover.
“Utilities are all unique,” says Parks.
“One system can’t meet all the needs of all
the utilities out there. Utilities don’t have
to get caught up in the latest technology
phase if that particular technology doesn’t
make sense for them. Utilities should base
their decisions on what technology best
addresses their needs and meets their
budgets and financial objectives.”
“Training does have to be done to teach staff
members how to best serve the customers
with this data. But once that’s done, I often hear
people say that if we took their system away
from them, they wouldn’t know what to do.”