SAS® helps Cary, NC, save money, give citizens real-time view of water usage
Aquastar system projected to save town $10 million
The Town of Cary, NC, helps citizens monitor water usage and saves millions of dollars in the process with an automated water meter system. Aquastar replaced monthly manual readings with a wireless system that collects hourly meter data, allowing the town to operate more efficiently and provide citizens with in-depth water usage reports, powered by SAS® Analytics.
Cary replaced approximately 60,000 residential and commercial water meters with new, state-of-the-art meters and radio transmitters. Through operational savings, Aquastar will save the utility more than $10 million above the cost of the project. Prior to the implementation of Aquastar, meter reading was conducted by meter readers walking routes with handheld devices that interfaced to the billing system. Given the growth projections for the town, the demands for accurate readings would exceed what could be done manually and in a timely manner.
In addition, holidays, unplanned staff absences and inclement weather disrupted meter reading schedules, which led to inconsistent billing periods. When customers called to express dissatisfaction with high bills, the town was unable to provide information about when high usage occurred.
Web portal gives citizens view of water usage, shows possible leaks
“Hourly water meter usage data has transformed our customer service approach from reactive to proactive,” said Town of Cary Finance Director Karen Mills. “Not only can we give detailed information on usage, we can identify possible problems to help citizens reduce bills and save water.”
SAS is used to analyze millions of rows of data produced by the meters. The system produces simple usage reports and reveals anomalies that could indicate problems in the water system or at residential or commercial properties. Advanced analytics technology was essential to handle the massive amounts of data generated by hourly readings from thousands of locations and combine it with customer account information from the billing system.
“The data set was so large that we could not turn it into something useful,” said Town of Cary Technology Services Director Bill Stice. “Working with SAS, we were able to create and publish easily understandable summary data. We now get a much better response from citizens looking at the data online.”
Through the town’s public web portal, citizens can look at their average hourly, daily and monthly consumption, as well as the last 13 months’ consumption. Customers can set alerts that automatically notify them via email or text if usage rises above preset limits.
The town’s daily reports prioritize and identify customers with possible leaks or unplanned water usage. Cary uses the reports to proactively reach out to customers to alert them of high and/or continuous water use. A database tracks customer contacts and results.
Data analysis supports Cary’s conservation efforts
Aquastar supports the town’s commitment to preserving and protecting the environment in a number of ways. It has helped Cary reduce carbon emissions by taking meter readers off the road. In one year, 10 meter readers drove 71,000 miles and used 7,000 gallons of fuel. The town can more quickly detect and stop leaks, and give customers valuable information so that they can use water more wisely.
With daily data on each customer type, the town can better understand water loss and better predict utility revenue. The details of customer demand by day help explain revenue variations among customer class and service delivery type. This more detailed understanding will make future rate setting more predictable and target water conservation programs to areas with the highest cost-benefit reward.
”The Internet of Things is a hot topic these days,” said Paula Henderson, Vice President of the SAS State and Local Government Practice. “Aquastar is a prime example of how analytics can use the data produced by automated devices to improve service to citizens, and save taxpayer money through increased efficiencies.”
SAS technologies and solutions for government are used in government agencies in all 50 states to transform their operations to deliver the right services, at the right time, with the appropriate resources. SAS offers a wide array of data management, business intelligence and analytics solutions, and collaborates with governments to create innovative offerings tailored to specific departmental and agency goals.
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