BIG AMI: Fort Worth Water Harnesses the Value of Data

Fort Worth Stock Yards

The City of Fort Worth, Texas, provides clean and affordable water to 1.4 million people and has a progressive utility that places innovation at the forefront of its goals.

The utility had been exploring options for an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) program that would ultimately save money by not having to hire meter readers, as well as provide more accurate and timely meter readings. A feasibility assessment showed Fort Worth would benefit from AMI. Not only would it change the data landscape, but analysis of the data could also provide insight into customer behavior and offer ways to better manage its resources.

Moreover, AMI would empower customers with the tools and information needed to better manage their water use. Remote meter reading would save time and money. Additionally, an online customer portal was sought and implemented to allow customers access to their usage data and provide options to pay their water bill, among other key features.

“We saw how the technology would improve the customer experience, transform the utility’s business processes and reduce water loss,” says Kara Shuror, retired Fort Worth Water deputy director, who oversaw the program.

Pursuing AMI

Smart water metering systems offer numerous benefits over the legacy meters, such as higher accuracy and improved leak detection, which can lead to reduced water loss. Fort Worth, the nation’s 13th largest city by population, saw the potential of a new metering system and selected Aqua-Metric Sales Co., a Sensus, a Xylem brand, channel partner that provides full service and turn-key smart metering solutions.

By partnering with Aqua-Metric and utilizing the Sensus FlexNet communication network, Fort Worth Water implemented a program that provides reliable data about water usage. The FlexNet system provides the communications backbone to transmit data seamlessly between the utility and its meters so customers pay only for the water they use.

Fort Worth Water is among the largest water utilities nationwide to put AMI in place. The program was not solely based on the meters, but also the ability to harness the value of the data produced to transform the way Fort Worth Water handles its business and provides customer services.

AMI is an asset management tool that enables data driven decision-making for operations and capital planning, and creates a proactive approach to maintenance. AMI data can help detect potential infrastructure issues and ensure they get fixed before becoming disruptive and costly.

Proposed Solution

The deployment stage of Fort Worth’s MyH2O program involved more than 275,000 meter change outs.
The deployment stage of Fort Worth’s MyH2O program involved more than 275,000 meter change outs.

Fort Worth Water, which calls its advanced metering program MyH2O, sought a partnership and program that went beyond simple metering. The utility looked for a company that would listen and understand its big-picture goals. Aqua-Metric, one of the utility’s meter suppliers responded to that call, articulating a program beyond the meter to the technologies and supporting program requirements. Aqua-Metric proposed a full-service solution with the company playing the lead role as the system integrator focused on full-service delivery.

Once selected, Aqua-Metric initiated its plan to create a digital transformation with Sensus technology for Fort Worth Water that allowed for billing accuracy and near real-time leak detection to help the utility and its customers find issues sooner.

Edgar Garcia, Fort Worth Water’s meter services superintendent when the program began, acknowledged the significant advantages of working with Aqua-Metric, having an established relationship with the company.

“They worked closely with the utility’s quality control and quality assurance team,” Garcia says. “We had a lot of meetings with Aqua-Metric throughout the program. We found by staying on top of issues, we were making sure they listened and addressed those issues.”

Proof of Concept

During the program’s planning phase, Fort Worth Water conducted a series of comprehensive business process workshops that would take the utility from its current state of doing business to its desired future state.

When that work was completed, an initial proof of concept phase followed and enabled the utility and Aqua-Metric to work out potential issues before taking on the remainder of the meter exchanges.
With this phase completed, full deployment was underway, placing Fort Worth Water on track to meet its goals and ensure a sustainable future.

Fort Worth AMI timeline

Meter Exchanges

While the deployment stage of the program seemed daunting with more than 275,000 meter exchanges needed, the excitement of completing such a large-scale program and realizing the potential benefits made any challenges that arose manageable.

Effective coordination of a program of this magnitude required open and continuous communication between the Fort Worth Water and Aqua-Metric leadership teams. Aqua-Metric orchestrated exchanges that minimized water service disruption to the customer, while planning a schedule to accommodate the utility’s billing system.

Moreover, in the midst of meter exchanges, Fort Worth Water decided it would prefer to complete the deployment faster than originally planned. When the utility approached Aqua-Metric with a request to ramp up installations, Aqua-Metric brought on additional crews to make it happen.

Results Achieved

The Sensus remotely-managed solution has improved Fort Worth Water’s operations with advanced metering that has demonstrated remarkable accuracy and ease of use. The utility likes how AMI enhances the way it engages customers and gets them more involved in conservation efforts.

With AMI in place, utility staff created a data environment that gives management comprehensive dashboards and issue-tracking software. This system provides insights into water usage like never before.
Fort Worth Water continues to make strides in business process improvements and is still uncovering new ways to optimize and streamline its operations.

“Aqua-Metric truly seemed to want what was best for Fort Worth Water,” Shuror adds. “They had a real sense of ownership of the project. When you spend seven years in a vendor relationship and you come out of it wanting to recommend them, it’s always a good thing.”

MyH2O brought tremendous change to the utility, but it is still a work in progress. It has been transformational and will continue to be so for decades to come as the utility works to ensure an adequate water supply for the future.

This article was compiled by Fort Worth Water and Aqua-Metric.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *