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The Magazine
Every drop counts: ensuring access to safe drinking water within all of India’s regions and to its whole population is a top priority not just of official institutions, but of many private enterprises and initiatives as well. Smart water meters can improve both service quality and economic payoff in water supply networks

Process instrumentation

Smart water measures

In India, utilities are often faced with significant amounts of lost revenue because they are unable to accurately charge for water consumption due to outdated processes. By automating water metering, both public and private enterprises can address this issue.

Managing water supplies is one of the greatest challenges for local governments in the world’s hottest countries. With water an essential resource for people and industries, it is vital that consumption be accurately measured. A local government in India was using on-site mechanical turbine flowmeters to record the consumption of its city’s industries. These water meters were highly inaccurate, with error margins of 10% or higher. They also deteriorated quickly, leading to high replacement costs. Checking the meters was slow, as it had to be done manually once a month by a local government worker. Creating and distributing bills was also labor intensive, taking 20 days or more to complete. Even more wasteful was that up to 50% of the water was being lost from leaks in the pipes, which the local government was unable to locate and fix. 

Automation helps keep track of resources

Recognizing the significant loss of revenue due to inaccurate water billing, the local government decided to replace its outdated turbine meters with digital flow meters. These would collect water usage data automatically and make it possible to create bills in minutes rather than weeks.

Automated metering technology could also eliminate inaccurate water readings and enable flow rates, totalizer readings, and error messages to be routed to a central control room. The local government could then monitor individual water consumption, provide customers with readings on demand, and accelerate the billing cycle. 

Accurate readings for many years

A local contractor, M/S Vinflow Controls, was hired to assess the performance of digital electromagnetic flowmeters from several suppliers. It determined that the Sitrans F M MAG 8000 was the ideal solution. Whereas the other devices were battery powered, the MAG 8000 can be powered by a battery or from the main power. This is a major advantage since the water meters use GSM/GPRS technology, which drains batteries quickly and increases the risk that the water meters will shut down.

With the Sitrans F M MAG 8000, the operator gains the flexibility to install a reliable water flowmeter virtually anywhere without sacrificing accuracy or performance. The device complies with water meter standards and is specially engineered for stand-alone water applications such as abstraction, distribution networks, revenue metering, and irrigation. 

Nearly 100 MAG 8000 flowmeters were installed in place of the turbine meters at industrial sites around the city. The meters connect wirelessly to several Simatic S7 programmable logic controller (PLC) stations within the control center, which collect data readings in real time. The meters’ built-in GSM/GPRS modules also make it possible for customers to access readings via SMS or e-mail at any time, and for operators to receive automatic alerts whenever alarms are triggered.

Reaping the benefits

After installing MAG 8000 water meters throughout the city, the local government in India is reaping the benefits of more accurate meter readings and higher revenue. 

Water revenue has risen 20% annually because the automated meters can measure flow with an accuracy of 0.2%–0.4%. In addition, the local government saves on manual labor costs because no on-site visits are required. Maintenance is also minimal because the MAG 8000 has no moving parts and does not deteriorate like the old turbine meters. Perhaps the greatest success is that water loss from leaks has been reduced from 50% to 10%, as the local government receives immediate alerts of any leaks and can initiate prompt repairs.

This water project has had such a positive impact that it won India’s prestigious National Urban Water Award 2011–12 for financial reform. The local government now plans to extend the project by introducing MAG 8000 meters into households and businesses. This will continue to improve water management and boost profitability in the years to come.

Picture credits: Getty Images