Thoughts

A place for education, information, and insights about the water industry.

Topics: Editorial

To Build or Not to Build?

April 14, 2020
| By Ali Barsamian

Times have changed and current customer expectations established by other industries are pushing water utilities to re-evaluate their customers' experience.  Providing a one-stop shop for customers to view and track water consumption, and take additional self-service actions is quickly becoming table stakes for water utilities of all sizes. Bluefield Research predicts a 17.1% compound annual growth rate for investment in customer engagement software platforms in the coming years.  As utilities consider deploying said solution, a myriad of team members from varying departments will likely want specific features or functionalities included with the project. Before long, the list of requirements can begin to feel overwhelmingly long and incredibly unique to the utility's particular needs. 

A natural reaction for some may be to assume their needs are so unique that a custom solution must be developed in-house in order to adequately
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Topics: Editorial

Water Meter Data Management - To Sink or SWIM (Part 2)

January 16, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton

(In part 2 of this post we review additional benefits and challenges of an MDM and what ideal technology solution best suits water industry needs):

Benefit and Challenge 2: Interoperability Electric utilities have a large number of data systems (as many as 12+) that require metering information. Getting access to all this data is no small feat (see diagram below).

The National Rural Electric Coop Association (catering to utilities under 300k endpoints) has developed a standard for meter data system interoperability known as MultiSpeak. From the MultiSpeak About page:

The MultiSpeak Specification is a key industry-wide standard for realizing the potential of enterprise application interoperability. The MultiSpeak Specification is the most widely applied de facto standard in North America pertaining to distribution utilities and all portions of vertically-integrated utilities except generation and power marketing.

Unfortunately,

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Topics: Editorial

Water Meter Data Management - To Sink or SWIM (Part 1)

January 9, 2018
| By Jeff Lipton

(In part 1 of this two part post, we look at the history of meter data management systems and how they apply to the water industry):

Water Meter Data Management: To sink or SWIM? The role of a Meter Data Management System (MDMS) is not well defined within the water industry. Many products on the market claim to provide MDM functionality, but few people understand the value of what these systems offer. To understand how this confusion has come about and what can be done to address data management needs in the water industry, we need to first examine the evolution of the MDM.

A Brief History of the MDMS In the late 1990’s, the electric industry pioneered the concept of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), recognizing a need for more frequent and accurate meter data. However, this emerging meter information occasionally delivered anomalistic or missing data, and an MDMS was designed to manage and clean the incoming flood of data.

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Topics: Editorial

Defining Total Customer Engagement

November 14, 2017
| By Jeff Lipton

Elusive Definitions Total Customer Engagement is an amorphous concept that is difficult to define or quantify. Depending on the nature of a given business, engagement may be described using language such as touches, opens, responses, clicks, registrations, reach, shares, influence, views, or other nebulous terms. This language leaves organizations ill-equipped to define and measure the impact and benefits of communicating with customers in a wide-range of situations.

For the water industry in particular, a century of silent service has created an aversion to engaging with customers. Complaints from customers on high bills, boil notices, and service outages created the impression that less engagement with customers was preferable. Now that customers are always connected with digital devices and real-time notifications from nearly every common service provider (electric, mobile phone, internet, cable, etc.), the bar for more

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Topics: Editorial

Addressing the FEAR of Water Innovation

June 29, 2017
| By Peter Yolles

I recently spent two days among colleagues from a broad range of water utilities at an amazing peer-to-peer conference of the California Water Efficiency Partnership (CalWEP). The assembled group discussed water innovation and exhibited many classic traits of high performing teams:

  • Commitment to a common mission
  • Dedication to their jobs and to the group over long periods (10-30 years)
  • Welcoming of new participants 
  • Diversity across ages, backgrounds and cultures 
  • Collaborative spirit fostered by natural, non-competitive monopolies

CalWEP's mission is to drive water innovation and adoption of new technologies. These market transformations will make our state more sustainable in the face of rapidly rising populations and increasing variable water supply. For the past 40 years, CalWEP (and its predecessor organization, the California Urban Water Conservation Council) has enabled California to largely meet its drinking water

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Topics: Editorial

The Affordability Battle

January 31, 2017
| By Andrea Sospenzo

How to Maintain Infrastructure Without Compromising Affordability There’s a lot we don’t agree on; however, there’s one thing we can all say is true—everyone deserves access to clean water. Drinking water and wastewater utilities have taken on the responsibility of providing clean drinking water and to uphold public health standards in neighborhoods and communities. Unfortunately, there’s always a trade off: utilities have to invest in a variety of innovative technologies and infrastructure to ensure they are up to date with current drinking water standards. In order to pay for these investments, utilities typically rely on customer revenues, which can raise another problem—affordability.

Why Are Water Rates Rising? According to Circle of Blue’s annual water pricing survey, the average monthly water utility bill for a household using 50-100 gallons per person per day rose nearly six percent in 30 major U.S. cities in 2015 and

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