How Metron-Farnier’s One-Minute Data Analytics Platform Helps Conserve Water and Empower Ratepayers
When water resources are limited, the world faces serious challenges. For several regions across North America, water scarcity is a harsh reality. For their utilities, strict conservation measures are becoming a critical part of mitigating risk, meeting growing demand, and adapting to a new normal.
Lake Mead is a prominent example. Serving millions of people, as well as several industries, in Arizona, California, and Nevada, it’s the largest reservoir in the United States. In June 2021, the lake hit its lowest water level since the 1930s, equivalent to 36% of its capacity.
“When you’re facing water scarcity, every last drop counts,” says Matt Laird, CEO of Boulder, Colorado-based digital watercompany Metron-Farnier. “We want to help these utilities – and their customers – understand how and where they are using water and make the best possible decisions to address leaks and wasteful consumption practices, as well as other types of water loss.”
In the region that Lake Mead serves, Metron-Farnier is part of the solution. Working together with the City of North Las Vegas Utilities Department as one of their meter vendors. The 30-year-old meter manufacturing company is installing WaterScope, a powerful next-generation, cloud-based platform that helps both utilities and ratepayers precisely pinpoint and identify water use issues at the source. Notably, WaterScope collects data in one-minute intervals – a first for the industry, and a feature that offers utilities precise, actionable insights.
The power of “one-minute” data
Water meters have come a long way in the past three decades, Laird says. “Before meters could transmit data remotely, crews were dispatched to manually read them. Taking them off the road was the initial value of the innovation.”
When it comes to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), Laird says, reading the meters remotely is only 10-20% of the potential value and return. “To make a real difference to the utility – and its customers – we need to apply analytics and offer actionable insights,” he says. “Think about it. If you can’t identify the source of water waste, how ‘smart’ is the meter?”
The ability to log and transmit water use data down to the minute gives Metron-Farnier a significant competitive advantage in the market. “With this level of resolution, we can determine the source of the water use, right down to the fixture,” Laird says. Monitoring how and when irrigation systems are used, for instance, is critical in water-scarce regions. He adds: “With real-time data, we can break down those systems by zone, for instance, and accurately report on volume, duration of use, and peak flow rates.”
The online analytics are especially helpful for North Las Vegas’ conservation efforts to pinpoint usage in near real-time.
With only hourly data, he says, utilities are left guessing. “It’s like trying to run a company with only an annual income statement. You only have one data point and cannot see trends, losses and opportunities, and how well you are doing against your plan.”
WaterScope also allows utilities to track non-revenue water – or water loss that they couldn’t previously track – by comparing customer metering to the utility’s master meters. “Traditionally, tracking water loss has been a huge battle for utilities,” Laird says. “This is the first time they’ve had a tool to help them understand this loss and determine the reasons. It’s a powerful tool.”
The customer also plays a key role in the success of a conservation strategy. While Metron-Farnier is helping utilities understand water use, waste, and loss throughout their customer base, Laird says, a truly effective plan empowers the ratepayer. It starts with providing access to water use analytics.
“As a homeowner or property manager, you may not be aware you’ve got a problem until you receive your water bill. It can come as quite a shock,” he says. “You may be going through hundreds of gallons of water per day without knowing how or why.”
With the WaterScope app, ratepayers can view a dashboard that tracks and explains their water use. Homeowners can use the analytics to understand the impact of everyday use, such as a leaky flapper valve on a toilet, excessive irrigation, or even lengthy showers.
Says Laird: “We’ve designed tools to help utility customers gain control over their water bills. With the right data, they can make household-level decisions about usage and address any issues before they become major problems.”
Harnessing data to manage and adapt
With scarcity threatening many regions in North America, water utilities are facing more challenges than ever before. “When utilities have a comprehensive understanding of their water use and loss, they can improve their operations, customer service, and maintenance. Most importantly, they can help their communities manage and adapt.”
With more than 312,000 smart meters reporting to its customers across the United States, Metron-Farnier is making that important work viable. “Knowing that we make a difference is what keeps our company motivated to provide solutions,” Laird says.