Dollars from Data — Analytics Checks the Flow of Non-Revenue Water
Aclara, sponsor of IH2O’s Water Gala ’18, are at the forefront of the digital revolution in water. In this guest post, they examine what’s at stake for utilities from non-revenue water loss, benefits of reducing loss, and emerging methods to deal with it. Enjoy…
Non-revenue water in distribution systems — the water lost before it is metered — is estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be at least 16% on average in the US, (with about 75% of this recoverable). As droughts put pressure on water reserves in many urban areas around the globe, and as it becomes more costly to produce potable water, it becomes imperative to staunch the flow of non-revenue water.
Most utilities have programs to reduce leaks in the water system, also known as real losses. But another type of water loss can be even more costly. Apparent losses are caused by inaccurate meters, theft or billing problems, and occur at the final retail cost of water. They reduce a utility’s ability to collect all the revenue owed and so directly affects their bottom line.
Analytics can help utilities recover between one and five percent of top line revenue that is now being lost in their systems through apparent losses, as reported by Valor Water Analytics, IH2O 2015 company and one of Aclara’s strategic partners. For a $100 million utility, that amounts to between one and five million dollars a year.
Reducing Apparent Losses
Data collected by the utility through advanced metering infrastructure systems provides a wealth of information that can be analyzed to identify apparent losses.
1: Unauthorized consumption, or theft
Stealing water is easier to control in utilities that have implemented advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), because the data from these systems can be analyzed to identify suspicious patterns of consumption.
2: Data handling errors
Meter reading, billing and archiving errors reduce the amount of revenue collected by the utility. Customer Information Systems and Meter Data Management can ensure the integrity of meter data and reduce apparent water caused by inaccurate data reporting.
3: Inaccurate meters
Analytics programs can pinpoint meters that are under-registering or incorrectly sized, allowing utilities to find faulty meters faster and take a more surgical approach to meter replacement.
More Ways to Save
Analytics can ferret out other types of revenue and customer-service improvements. The intelligence derived from analyzing payment patterns, for instance, can help you calculate the risk of specific customers defaulting on payments. This supports proactive outreach to at-risk customers with special programs designed to reduce the number of cut-offs and delinquent payments.
Utilities can also analyze AMI data to handle tasks such as individualizing communications about conservation programs, evaluating rate structures, identifying ways to save on energy used to produce water and proactively notifying customers when their water heaters develop leaks.
Simply put, by including analytics as an integral component of AMI strategy, water utilities can reduce apparent and real water losses. Data collected through AMI provides the actionable intelligence necessary to drive revenues, operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction, all the while minimizing risks and increasing financial resilience.
For more information, download Aclara’s whitepaper, Using AMI with Analytics to Reduce Apparent and Real Water Loss.