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DFW Area Town First to Adopt Smart Grid for Water in Texas
In the summer of 2013, Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), in the Dallas-Fort Worth region of North Texas, implemented a stage-one drought contingency plan in response to local water availability falling to 75% of desired levels. These conservation measures, which have been designed to reduce indoor and outdoor water use, included restrictions such as limiting outside watering use to specific schedules.
While the need for these restrictions was clear, the immediate revenue impacts were hampering the city’s need to invest in ensuring that their aging infrastructure could continue to dependably provide safe and efficient water for their residents. Unfortunately, trying to offset the revenue reduction led to the need for increased rates, which city leadership knew would likely result in further conservation and intensify the revenue shortfall for the water department.
“Cities face difficult decisions concerning water resources and budgetary constraints. Through a partnership with FATHOM, the City of Kennedale has empowered customers with smart water management tools and improved our water and financial outlook not only for current residents, but for generations to come,” said Krystal Crump, finance director, City of Kennedale.
To address this challenge, staff in Kennedale selected theFATHOM data-driven analytics platform and implemented its Meter Data Management (MDM), Customer Information System (CIS), and customer presentment tools with the intent of maximizing revenue, increasing operational efficiencies, and improving billing and customer interaction to encourage conservation.
FATHOM Revenue Assurance provided geospatial analyses to identify lost revenue in Kennedale’s water utility. Missing accounts and services, erroneous bill codes, incorrect meter sizes, and other data errors all mean lost revenue for a utility. FATHOM Revenue Assurance helps ensure the utility bills every customer correctly, every time – thus increasing revenue. This is particularly important for utilities facing conservation measures, such as the City of Kennedale.
Normally a reduction in water use results in an immediate loss of utility revenue. However, by maximizing collectible revenue through the combined use of FATHOM MDM, the implementation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) providing highly granular water use data, and the FATHOM CIS system, the city’s water utility financial condition has not only stabilized, but improved, despite a reduction in consumption of 17.5%. In fact, the City of Kennedale has benefited from an increase of net revenue of more than 5.8% since introducing FATHOM’s services.
INCREASING OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY
With the support of FATHOM software and services, Kennedale was able to shift from basic automated meter reading (AMR) to more precise advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). AMI is a transformative investment in data and information that provides substantially increased data granularity and accuracy, while eliminating human error. This decreases the labor costs of meter reading, and provides the platform for a new conversation with customers about water use.
The FATHOM-enhanced meter data allowed the Kennedale Utility Billing Department to identify and remedy issues before they became significant enough to impact billing. The FATHOM platform also uses statistical analyses to understand the performance of Kennedale’s metering and billing systems in real time.
IMPROVING BILLING AND CUSTOMER INTERACTION
The shift to AMI also enhanced the precision of billing. FATHOM enables the Kennedale team to access a cloud-based back office and data management system to better track consumption and ensure the accuracy of billing. This streamlined process helps reduce costs and labor and allows staff to focus on other priorities.
The easy-to-use FATHOM U2You customer portal, tied directly to FATHOM CIS, improves the customer-utility interaction by enhancing the customer journey while encouraging the customer to “self-serve”. With this platform, residents can better engage with the utility through highly functional and intuitive web-based account access and presentment tools.
U2You allows customers to view their water use in real time, while providing enhanced account functionality such as providing multiple payment methods and customized alerts. U2You empowers customers to manage — and pay for — their water use in smarter, easier ways. In fact, since adoption of FATHOM’s services, water customers in Kennedale have used this data to reduce their per capita water demand by 17.5%.
The increasing frequency of short- and long-term scarcity of water is impacting the way our water utilities operate. As utilities and customers recognize the importance of managing the availability of water resources, providers must also keep an eye on their financial condition. Improving operational and financial efficiency is a critical business step for water utilities seeking to compensate for conservation-driven revenue reductions.
Kennedale’s experience demonstrates the power of FATHOM’s platform to help utilities simultaneously increase revenue, decrease costs, and delight customers — even in the face of dramatic water use reductions.
There is strength in numbers.