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During the 2014 North Carolina Water and Wastewater Finance course, the Town of Cary and Sensus Inc. presented to the class on a panel entitled “Smart Technology and Water Finance.” During the panel, Karen Mills, Cary’s Finance Director, and Leila Goodwin, Cary’s Water Resources Manager, stated they have adopted advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), colloquially known as “smart meters,” for their drinking water system. This ambitious technological project has allowed the Town of Cary many benefits for their water system, a few of which include: earlier leak detection and repair, improved backflow prevention, and better monitoring of water usage during rationing / shortages, among many others.

In this project, Cary’s drinking water system has switched from older meters that typically are read once a month to AMI that reads once an hour. At 24 hours/day, 365 days/year, this equates to 8,760 meter readings/year under the new tech, versus 12 readings/year under the old tech; or 730 times as many readings. Given Cary’s AMI adoption rate (60,000 meters), this equates to 720,000 meter-reads per year (old tech), versus 525,600,000 meter-reads/year (AMI). So I got to wondering, how could I visualize this difference of 730 times as much water metering data? Ms. Mills and Ms. Goodwin then gave me the idea I had been searching for: swimming pools!

Olympic Sized Swimming Pool: 660,000 gallons capacity
Olympic Sized Swimming Pool: 660,000 gallons capacity

 

Small Backyard Pool: 900 gallons capacity
Small Backyard Pool: 900 gallons capacity

Hence this approach will indeed, as the larger photo above indicates, put utilities like the Town of Cary in the “fast lane” for data analytics, business intelligence, and many improvements in managing the finances of their water system. Our thanks once again to the Town of Cary for this visualization idea.

 

David Tucker is a Project Director at the Environmental Finance Center at UNC Chapel Hill.

 

 

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