Implementing smart meter technologies is critical for water utilities, new survey finds


Stephan Scholl,
Senior Vice
President and GM,
Oracle Utilities
Redwood Shores, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 11, 2010 – Water utility managers across North America are committed to promoting water conservation and they believe that smart meter technology adoption is critical, according to a new survey from Oracle.

However, while almost three-quarters of the 300 water utility managers in the United States and Canada that were surveyed say their utility actively promotes water conservation, and just over two-thirds believe it is critical that water utilities adopt smart meter technologies, only one-third are currently considering or implementing smart meter technologies.

The two most significant benefits of smart meter technology deployment are cited as enabling early leak detection (62 percent), followed by supplying customers with tools to monitor/reduce water use (35 percent). The top two roadblocks to implementation are lack of cost recovery or measurable return on investment (46 percent) and upfront utility expenses (42 percent).

More than 1,200 water consumers were also surveyed, of which more than three-quarters said they were concerned about the need to conserve water in their community and two-thirds said they had taken steps in the past 12 months to lower their home’s water use. Moreover, 69 percent believed they could reduce their personal water use, while 71 percent believed that having access to detailed usage data would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use.

“Smart grid and smart metering has received a lot of buzz in recent months, with electric utilities receiving most of the spotlight. However, water utilities also face aging infrastructures, sustainability challenges and customer demand for better service,” commented Stephan Scholl, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Utilities. “The report indicates that while water utilities realize that smart meter technologies can have a big impact on their business, there is a greater need to focus on consumer education and communication. Smart meter technologies can produce the actionable data required to provide consumers with information they can use to make smarter decisions about water consumption.”

The survey, “Testing the Water: Smart Metering for Water Utilities,” also found that while almost 60 percent of water utility managers believe their utility is doing an outstanding job in providing useful information to consumers on their water use, less than one quarter of the customers concurred with this view.

More than two-thirds of consumers felt that graphs comparing their home’s month- to-month use would be most helpful in encouraging them to reduce water use, and 62 percent felt estimated savings for different water reduction initiatives would be helpful. However, only 42 percent felt that neighborhood usage information would be helpful.

According to the report approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day or more, due to old fixtures like leaky toilets and faucets, and at least 36 states are projecting water shortages between now and 2013.