Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) delivers better management of water supply and demand in Colchester, UK
With a predicted 34 per cent rise in the number of households by 2033, it is the fastest growing region in the UK. It is also one of the driest, receiving only around 600 millimetres of rainfall each year.
Ensuring the efficient use of water is therefore a central priority, with domestic metering being a major means by which Anglian Water continues to manage customer demand. About 70 per cent of its customers are already metered and paying for exactly what they use. By 2035, it aims to have all water supplies to customer properties metered.
To date, most of the meters deployed do nothing more than record consumption rates and are read manually. These have been shown on average to save £100 from a household’s annual water bill and reduce their water consumption by between 5 and 15 per cent.
More recently, Anglian Water has been piloting Elster’s hybrid Smart Meters, which comprise a fully integrated, tamperproof advanced meter reading (AMR) unit that automates the process of meter reading and provides customers with accurate bills as opposed to estimates.
Sustainable water supply
Targeting water stressed areas, Anglian Water has deployed about 8,500 Smart Meters in Colchester as part of a large- scale pilot to test Smart Meter technology and assess the costs and benefits.
“Colchester is particularly challenged when it comes to the water resource so we wanted to maximise how many meters we put into the population to boost water savings,” says Paul Glass, project manager for Anglian Water. “Given the size of the areas we cover, we also went to the additional expense of installing radio meters as opposed to manually read meters to see how easy they would be to read.”
Smart Meters incorporate radio two-way communication technology, enabling utilities to acquire measurement data remotely and provide absolute rather than estimated bills.
However, Anglian Water was concerned that two-way radio communication would result in an accelerated degradation of the battery within the Smart Meter. And having evaluated a range of technology options, including clip-on modular devices, it also had concerns around the complexity of installation and commissioning, as well as the potential for customers to tamper with them.
Because the radio meters are easy to read, it is easier to locate leaks, target remedial efforts and then go back and check these efforts have been effective – Paul Glass, Anglian Water
In order to address these concerns, Elster proposed its innovative V200 and V210 hybrid meters, which can support both one- and two-way radio communication and feature integrated AMR within the same device. These hybrid meters can be configured to operate in a continuous one- way radio mode, whereby a distinct data packet is transmitted every 12.5 seconds so that it can be received by a meter reader wirelessly as they walk or drive past a property.
”Battery life is very important to us. We felt that a two-way system would introduce a risk of shortening the life of some meters if they were inadvertently ‘woken up’ by devices other than our own equipment,” says Paul. “So we chose a meter that could be one- or two- way, as we liked that flexibility. For example, if there is a premise where we suspect a leak or there is abnormal use, we have the capability to flip the Smart Meter into two-way mode and programme it remotely to take an hourly reading. We can then go back a day or a month later and obtain the readings.”
Elster worked closely with Anglian Water for the pilot in Colchester, conducting its own programme of meter readings to verify performance and collate and analyse the data in detail. The results revealed that the quickest method of reading the meters was the drive-by method. This consists of having a vehicle-mounted antenna connected to a Bluetooth belt box and a laptop PC or handheld device holding the route data and collecting the meter data.
Meanwhile, the walk-by method employs the same Bluetooth belt box with its own aerial fitted and a laptop or handheld with the route data that also collects the meter data.
“Using a combination of reading methods provides an efficient way of reading meters wherever they are installed across large areas,” says Stephen Spiceley, sales manager at Elster. “The pilot has gone extremely well and we will continue to work with Anglian Water to fine tune the product in response to their feedback and their specific data requirements.”
Promising a smarter future
Elster’s hybrid Smart Meters have enabled Anglian Water to focus more effectively on water resource management and consumer engagement and the success of the pilot in Colchester has meant Smart Meters will now be installed for all internal fits at residential properties in the area.
“One stat that sticks in my head, is that of the first round of a thousand meters installed at previously un-metered properties, about one per cent detected leaks,” says Anglian Water’s Paul Glass. “Because the radio meters are easy to read, it is easier to locate leaks, target remedial efforts and then go back and check these efforts have been effective.”
Previously, Anglian Water’s standard cycle of reading was every 6-12 months. Now, it has leakage teams taking readings monthly to weed out leaks. Five types of alerts may be generated: leak, reverse flow, magnetic tamper, no flow, and battery low.
“A reverse flow away from a house and into our supply poses risk to our network in terms of quality,” Paul continues. “With manually read meters we would never have been able to discover this. Another potential benefit of the leak alarm is that it could enable us to provide our customers with better service. It would be great to be able to call them before they receive a large bill and say we’ve identified a leak and that we can come and fix it. Having these meters allows us to do that.”
01582 846400, www.elstermetering.com