Water, electricity and gas infrastructure company Aclara has acquired part of the market that has opened up for water metering and leak detection technology in drought-hit California.
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is one of the largest utilities in California to install Aclara's STAR network for reading meters hourly.
The data collected from the city's 180,000 meters by Aclara's two-way fixed network feeds into an online customers usage service.
Aclara also generates a report that allows the utility to identify customers who may have leaks inside their homes.
Heather Pohl, automated water meter programme manager for San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said: "The Aclara report tells us which accounts have exhibited continuous usage every hour over a three-day reporting period each week.
"We filter that report for single-family homes and analyze it to identify the minimum usage for each account. This process allows us to gauge the severity of the suspected water leak."
The utility contacts those who show up on the report by sending weekly postcards notifying them of a possible leak, according to a statement.
It monitors the reports and notes which accounts have come off the list, assuming that they have responded to the utility's notice and fixed the leak.
Future enhancements to the report may benefit commercial customers and those owning multifamily residences such as apartment buildings.
Leak detection technology
Aclara said in a statement it also hopes to introduce its STAR ZoneScan system to drought-hit parts of the West Coast.
It has deployed the technology in a number of East Coast communities such as Sylacauga, Alabama, which uses the system to find underground leaks that occur on galvanized service lines and cast-iron pipes.
Mike McGinnis, superintendent of water in Sylacauga, said: "This type of pipe, some of which was installed as early as 1906, is more likely than others to leak because of corrosion.
"In a half-mile radius we might find six leaks. Everyplace we have installed the system we have found leaks that we can repair."
The Aclara STAR ZoneScan system was one of the tools that helped Sylacauga reduce its non-revenue water losses from about 34% to 23%, the company claims.
STAR ZoneScan works by automating the collection, retrieval and analysis of acoustic data gathered throughout the water system.
Its leak-intelligence devices are deployed at regular intervals on valves throughout the water-distribution network.
The devices record vibrations in the quiet early hours when factors such as traffic that affect leak noise are minimized.
The system transmits recorded sounds to the utility via Aclara's two-way fixed network, where the acoustic data is analyzed and automatically correlated to identify potential leak locations.