Extending Its AMI: Park City, Utah, Acquires New, Actionable Data & Reduces Risk

Park City, Utah

By Dan Pinney

Historically, utilities and municipalities have used advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to collect water consumption data for billing purposes. However, as measurement and communications technologies have evolved, there’s an increasing opportunity to gain new data within the water cycle and transform that data into actionable insights. Utilities can now grow into smart water networks that build upon traditional AMI capabilities to help them improve operational efficiencies and gain new revenue advantages.

While smart metering plays a key role in quantifying and helping to reduce non-revenue water (NRW), consumption isn’t the only factor to consider. Distribution system pressure is also important for utilities to monitor as they work to reduce NRW and protect their infrastructure investments. In worst case scenarios, pressure changes can cause pipes to burst – resulting in tremendous real losses and ancillary costs. But even when system pressure is not causing acute damage, chronic pressure changes from varying usage patterns, mechanical disruption, and every day operation can put unnecessary stress on water pipes and infrastructure.

Utilities that improve their capabilities to monitor water pressure in addition to flow will be in a better position to avoid risks. In this case study, we’ll explore how Park City, Utah, has been able to add this capability by extending its AMI system to go beyond traditional consumption data.

Setting the Stage

As one of the most popular tourist areas in the United States, Park City, Utah, offers an abundance of outdoor recreational activities, including more than 7,300 acres of ski slopes. Park City also draws thousands of movie fans to the city every January to check out the best independent cinema has to offer at the Sundance Film Festival. For the city’s water utility, providing effective water service for both residents and tourists can be a major production.

“We have about 8,000 residents in Park City, but it’s more like 30,000 with tourism factored in and it can be much higher when big events come to town,” said Park City Water Resources Manager Jason Christensen. “We’re constantly punching above our weight in terms of water services.”

Staying on the forefront of technology helps Park City’s water services team manage the unique dynamics of bringing water to their ever-fluctuating population. When there’s a challenge, they’re not afraid to tap into new resources to solve it.

Building on a Strong Foundation

With an eye for innovation, Park City has remained committed to driving quality water services to the community. A longtime customer of Sensus, a Xylem brand, the city was an early adopter of AMI, combining Sensus smart water meters with real-time remote monitoring capabilities provided by the Sensus FlexNet communication network.

“The Sensus AMI system has been a great investment by the community,” said Christensen. “In addition to helping improve efficiency and service for our water customers, it’s allowed us to expand the system with new applications.”

Park City decided it was time to look deeper into its water distribution network. Christensen and his team sought an affordable solution that could extend their AMI system to combat NRW and help the city proactively respond to issues with water pressure and flow.

“We’ve experienced scenarios where a pipe bursts, or a business develops problems with water pressure,” said Christensen. “We want to be able to monitor this type of activity, so we can address issues before they reach crisis mode.”

Park City needed a solution that could connect to its pressure reducing valve (PRV) sites, located on water distribution mains where no power or land-based communications were available. The city decided to conduct a pilot program with the battery-powered Sensus Smart Gateway Sensor Interface to help staff make critical and prompt decisions for customers by remotely monitoring water pressure and flow.

Park City Utility worker

As an extension of its AMI system, Park City installed the Sensus Smart Gateway at two PRV sites including one nearly 10,000 ft in elevation on a remote, mountainous location.

Pressure Monitoring in Action

The Sensus Smart Gateway interface allows customer service teams to monitor and measure pressure levels while also setting alarms to notify them of an issue. The solution is designed to help staffs quickly retrieve data about water pressure and leaks, so they can resolve system issues faster. The system also provides the ability to analyze this accumulated data to develop new insights into operations.

As an extension of its AMI system, Park City installed the Sensus Smart Gateway at two PRV sites. The first PRV site, referred to as “Surprise,” was chosen after the city realized its existing solution did not provide adequate power to operate its SCADA system at that site. Park City deployed the Smart Gateway to resolve this issue to serve as the communication solution – bringing flow data and pressure data back to the city.

The second PRV site, known as “Red Cloud,” is situated nearly 10,000 ft in elevation on a remote, mountainous location off the Wasatch Range. This area was selected by Park City because existing communication networks, specifically a point-to-point wireless LAN connection with a cellular backup, did not work at the site.

“We knew we had great coverage with FlexNet,” said Christensen. “We realized that we could keep all our instrumentation in place and activate the Smart Gateway as the communications piece needed to carry data insights back to our system.”

With the Sensus Analytics Pressure Profile application installed as part of the Smart Gateway solution, the city was also able to remotely monitor pressure and gain visibility into what was happening in their water distribution system. Soon after deployment, Christensen’s customer service team noticed an issue when the distribution pressure downstream of one of the PRV sites began to spike.

“The alarm went off and you could see the failure happening in real-time,” said Christensen. “The issue was resolved without incident, but it was a lesson for us in just how impactful the system could be.”

In addition to helping staff respond quickly to issues, the Sensus Smart Gateway solution increases the city’s level of service.

“At these sites, in order to detect a pressure event we had to rely on either a customer calling in or a field technician visiting the site,” said Christensen. “Now we can detect an issue in close to real time and reduce unnecessary wear and tear on the water system.”

Smart Gateway Proves a Big Hit

Based on its successful pilot, Park City is planning to extend Smart Gateways to 24 more sites in the coming months. The city looks forward to using new insights from the data gained in the expansion such as identifying non-revenue water.

“While the added connectivity enhances operational performance, it will also help us get smarter as a utility,” said Christensen. “As we monitor more sites, we’ll be able to store the data and use it as a resource for ongoing asset management and water loss reduction.”

Christensen and his team see the Smart Gateway solution as a perfect example of the Sensus AMI system’s key differentiator.

“With the Sensus AMI system, we can implement incremental projects quickly that require less capital and help maximize our return on investment in the AMI system,” said Christensen. “These incremental projects will allow us to continue progressing as a smart utility and extend those benefits to the community.”

Dan Pinney is the global director of water marketing for Sensus, a Xylem brand, based in Raleigh, N.C. Pinney has more than 27 years of experience in the global water industry with leadership roles in operations and development at Sensus. He attended the University of Florida, majoring in electrical engineering.

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