Santa Maria Saves Water with AMI Program

The city of Santa Maria, Calif., is modernizing its water utility program and delivering thousands of dollars in annual costs savings to customers and its own operations by deploying the FlexNet™ Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) communications system from Sensus.

Santa Maria, population 93,225, is located along U.S. Highway 101 in the Santa Maria Valley, in northern Santa Barbara County, in the heart of one of the nation's premier wine regions.

The decision to deploy the solution came after Santa Maria water officials saw positive results from a pilot program it conducted in 2009, which measured the performance of the fixed base system. The technology quickly identified leaks in nearly 3 percent of the homes in the test area. Santa Maria officials credit the leak detection capabilities for saving nearly a half million gallons of water – and hundreds of dollars for customers – in the first 45 days of the pilot.

Shannon Sweeney, water resources manager for the city of Santa Maria, said moving to an AMI system will save in operational costs by significantly reducing the time spent reading meters throughout the city’s 20-square-mile service territory. The system will also provide hourly usage data to better understand customer consumption patterns.

“We will now be able to alert customers quickly if they are experiencing excessive water use,” Sweeney said. “This AMI system is an excellent means to conserve both our natural and capital resources and offer exceptional customer service.”

City officials estimate that its customer base will save almost $100,000 annually from leak identification, alone. In terms of water conservation, more than 86 million gallons of water could be saved in the first year after total deployment of the FlexNet system, which will reduce the amount of water the city must purchase from the state. For the city itself, officials expect to see about that same amount in operational savings—mostly from reduced man hours previously spent reading meters. Affected staff will be moved to other positions, Sweeney said.

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