Reducing commercial losses through better metering

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Commercial losses for a significant part of non-revenue water (NRW). Some of the issues cited are:

  •  Meters not working or stalled
  •  Tampering or manipulation of meters
  •  Meter readers not having proper access to meters
  •  Meter readers deliberately not taking readings or influenced to give the wrong reading
  •  Illegal connections and theft

Danco Capital, a leading water solution provider in Kenya has been aiming to reduce water losses through sustainable solutions both in metering and better piping systems. With NRW being so high in Kenya and other parts of Africa we need to take some positive actions to reduce commercial losses through some sound and easy steps.

1. Choose an accurate water

The saying “cheap is expensive” is the best way to describe how one should avoid cheap, inaccurate meters which are known to stall within one year of installation. Quality meters should last for over 7 years and be MID approved with good accuracy.

A meter is a Water Service Provider’s (WSP) cash register. Using the correct meter with higher accuracy, the right type of meter for the turbidity of water, and tamper proof is imperative.

It is very important that a WSP looks at lifetime cost, accuracy and the technical benefits when choosing a meter. At Ruiru and Juja Water Services Company, Kenya (RUJWASCO) a series test completed in 2017 using a Diehl volumetric meter and other less accurate meters available showed that over a period of 6 months the company was recording on average 15% to 20% higher readings from the more accurate Diehl meters over the less accurate meters. This meant an increase in revenue and a high return on investment on the meter.

2. Use technology- Automated Meter Reading (AMR)

Taking advantage of technology cannot be ignored and must be embraced by WSPs to help reduce commercial losses.

Eldoret Water and Sanitation Company (ELDOWAS) in Western Kenya have embraced technology and have been instrumental in conducting a pilot for automated meter reading (AMR) in one DMA. The board and senior management have contracted DANCO PLASTICS (KENYA) to install and hand over a fixed network system using DIEHL METERING (Germany) and technology to test AMR as a way to reduce commercial losses.

ELDOWAS have installed a FIXED NETWORK system from DIEHL METERING. All meters (already smart ready) are installed with a radio module that emits a radio pulse every 8 seconds. This pulse is captured and read by a fixed receiver (concentrator) that is installed in a strategic area within a specific distance from all the meters. The concentrator collects all the readings and transmits this data by GPRS to a cloud based server.

This data is remotely read by an online web based software that the ELDOWAS team can access anywhere. The software allows the team to read all meters from the office and can be set to every 8 seconds, to every day or whatever your preference.

The software gives the GPS data on every meter, to include customer names, details and any other information that you choose to input. Therefore this automatically does a GIS mapping for your network.

The most useful tool is that it provides an alarm for any meters that have been stalled, tampered with, or detects overflow, all highlighted on the software and accessible at any time. An additional option to a Fixed Network system is a DRIVE BY system – this is also offered by Diehl

Metering and works very well for remote areas or where the water service provider wants to over a larger area. A drive by system uses a hand held device that can be driven around (or on foot) around the city and will automatically collect the meter readings from smart meters within 500 meters of the device.

Whether it is a drive by or fixed network, automated meter reading is the future and is already contributing to reducing non-revenue water.

The principal advantages are:

1. Provides accuracy in readings – with no challenges

2. Allows the water service company to send bills faster

3. The meter reading team can be used to analyse water consumption and focus on

problem customers

4. Allows focus and quick intervention on tampered meters

5. Quicker response on meters that are not working

6. Analysis on water consumption to allow for better management of resources

7. Seamless integration between reading and billing system

As we embrace new technology in our professional and personal lives, it is also important to consider the evolution of products and solutions available in the water sector and in particular in metering. Water meters are your cash register and the most valuable asset for a water company.

There should be no compromise on quality and this should be a priority. Further to this using remote metering will enhance the utilization of the meters and in turn transform your customer service and more significantly water losses.