Montana utility combines smart metering with pressure monitoring

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Big Sky Water & Sewer District, a utility in the US state of Montana, partnered with technology firm Sensus to deploy a smart utility network to enhance the operations of its water distribution network

Monitoring water systems can be difficult in a community like Big Sky with a large seasonal population owing to tourists visiting the region, extreme weather, and elevation changes. Big Sky is a gateway community to Yellowstone National Park and has become a hot spot for seasonal residents and visitors, resulting in varying water demand.

This prompted the local utility to embark on the project that included the installation of smart metering units, an IoT network, smart sensors, and the use of data analytics.

The ongoing project enabled Big Sky Water & Sewer to combine smart metering capabilities with pressure monitoring for real-time management of the water distribution network. The IPERL water meters installed enabled the utility to bill consumers accurately and gain data regarding consumer water usage in real-time. The data acquired can be analysed and used to help consumers to improve their water usage and save money. Previously, Big Sky Water & Sewer billed its 2,800 customers on a quarterly basis.

The two-way IoT network enables the smart water meters to send consumer water usage data in near-real-time and allows the smart sensors/gateway devices to be used by the utility to monitor distribution across the district’s ten pressure reducing valve (PRV) sites. The combination of smart metering and pressure monitoring enables leaks within the distribution network to be quickly identified.

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Ron Edwards, General Manager, Big Sky Water & Sewer District, said: “Costs can really add up if a leak goes undetected for long.

“We need to be able to identify these types of things before they become big problems for customers or lead to non-revenue water issues. We’ve installed the gateway devices at three sites so far and are already experiencing benefits.

“The ability to see the volume of water coming through these sites allows us to better understand where we may have service area leaks.”

The system enabled the utility to identify a leak at a consumer home that caused 170 gallons of water to be lost per-hour leak. The quick detection triggered a quick response to the leak resulting in the avoidance of non-revenue water for the utility and high water bill for the customer and resource conservation for both.

Real-time pressure monitoring also enables the water company to adjusts the pressure within its distribution network in line with consumer demands. For instance, irrigation customers will require more pressure during times when they would want to irrigate crops.

The digitalisation of water distribution networks is increasingly becoming a norm as utilities prepare themselves for changing business models and consumer demands for advanced services that are driven by smart solutions. At the heart of this digital transformation by utilities are smart meters owing to their ability to provide insights or data on consumer behavior.

Find out more about how Big Sky Water & Sewer is using smart meters to enhance its business practices.