How High Res AMI Helps Utility and Customer Control Irrigation Usage

The Modern AMI Meter

Over the past decade Water AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) companies have been advancing the amount and quality of the information they provide to the Water Utility as well as to the customer.

image of Modern AMI Meter with Cellular Connectivity

IIn 2010, the “state of the art” was to provide daily usage totals.  The Utility and customer could see when consumption was too high, but they were on their own to find the root cause.  To deliver information that allowed customer to improve their practices, the AMI system providers needed to provide more granular data, advancing from daily to hourly and less than hourly reporting intervals so analytic algorithms were able to identify water wasting culprits.

High Resolution AMI systems are cellular based.  They take advantage of the robust LTE networks across the country to send ever improving granular data.  In 2020, for the first time, utility and customer can see water usage patterns in 1-minute intervals.  It may sound like overkill, but 1-minute usage data can allow users to:

  • Pinpoint and compare total gallons used for irrigation vs. inside usage
  • Verify programming of irrigation controller time of use, duration and volume
  • Compare daily irrigation usage to best practice recommendations based on lot size and recent rainfall 

Daily Water USage Monitoring Benefits

Below, the usage for a single day in 1-minute time buckets is shown.  The irrigation events are clearly identifiable in the morning and evening from their high flow rate, extended duration and repeatable pattern.

When a user first sees the 1-minute, daily usage, usually their first question is, “How much of the usage is irrigation and how much is domestic?”  The data can be simply classified by identifying the events, then quantifying irrigation vs. domestic usage shown by day below.

Impressive AMI Water Usage Analytics

The analytics possible with 1-minute usage allow the user more impressive analytics as well.  It is not simply enough to know 70% of your water usage is irrigation, but essential to know, if your water is being used wisely? Is the irrigation controller programmed correctly for start times, zone watering times, number of cycles, etc.?  are there any leaks in the irrigation system?  All these questions can be answered by letting cloud-based servers crunch the 1-minute AMI data.

Following the Flow Rate

How much water is the irrigation system delivering to each zone per day?  An advanced AMI system can discern the different zones by capturing slight differences in flow rate as the irrigation systems switch between zones allowing the user to view just how much water is used per zone each day of the week. The user needs to figure out the area of each zone and can then compare the amount of water being used per square foot to local utility recommendations and make adjustments accordingly.

Controller Programming Mistakes

Often the biggest water waste in irrigation is due to mis-programmed sprinkler controllers.  The user assumes they have programmed the controller correctly and moves on.  If the programming is not correct, the user never knows because most irrigation is done while people are sleeping. The user is not aware if the system runs for too long, or cycles through zones multiple times.

State of the Art AMI Systems

A great benefit of “state of the art” AMI systems with 1-minute resolution is the ability to verify irrigation controller settings.  (see below)

Impressive AMI Water Usage Analytics

The AMI system shows the user that the irrigation system runs for 44 minutes, starting at 2:00 AM every day of the week.  The doughnut chart shows the percentage of time each zone is on, along with the total number of minutes for each zone for one or multiple days.

For many years water conservation professionals have needed the tools high resolution AMI systems can provide.  Now they are available and totally scalable.  Utilities can deploy the AMI system-wide or they can deploy a handful of units in handpicked locations to help their customers effectively manage their irrigation systems.  

Take Advantage of the New Conservation Tool

The new conservation tools provided by high resolution AMI have changed the value proposition for utilities.  For some water utilities, the insight into water consumption habits and patterns is invaluable, and the ability to read the water meters from the office may now be a secondary feature of the system.

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About the Author | Matt Laird

Matt Laird, CEO of Metron-Farnier, and its subsidiary companies, Metron Sustainable Services and Transparent Technologies, has 30 years’ experience in water metering.
He holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and a M.B.A. in Finance, both from the University of Colorado.

Mr. Laird has been a member of the AWWA serving on the National Water Committee for 15 years.

“Metron is a leader in water submetering in the U.S.  We combine our quiet, sensitive and freeze resistant water meters with onboard cellular communications, to give property owners and utilities unmatched tools to minimize their water consumption.”

— Matt Laird CEO, Metron Farnier