"The ability to contact our customer and say 'We think you might have a leak. It looks like unusual consumption going on. Get a plumber to have a look' is really significant."
Pat McCafferty, Yarra Valley Water MD and WSAA Chair on the benefits digital water meters can have for customers, as well as helping to conserve water.
We spoke to Pat McCafferty, Managing Director, Yarra Valley Water at the WSAA Water Utility Chairs and MDs Symposium in Canberra on Tuesday 10 September 2019.
So digital metering is being trialed right across Melbourne, in fact, the three water utilities, City West Water, South East Water, and Yarra Valley Water are collaborating together to implement trials to share the technology lessons and insights. And I think it's a very powerful way of trying something different and learning from each other.
So at Yarra Valley Water we've put in already now about 800 digital meters in a suburb near our office. And that's gone really well. 800 residential customers with some parks as well, public parks and also some commercial customers as well. And we're finding leaks already. So the biggest prize of digital meters is actually real time information of what's happening on the customer's property and what happens at the moment with old mechanical style meters is that we read those every three months and we issue a bill based on the consumption that's registered on the meter.
Now of course, if you've got a hidden leak and you didn't know that was happening, the first time you know about it is when you get the bill and you get bill shock. So the ability for us to, within 24 hours contact our customer proactively and say, "Look, we think you might have a leak it looks like some unusual consumption going on. Get a plumber to have a look at it," is really significant.
That's the biggest amount of value that I think that the digital meters will provide. Of course there are other things as well, but being able to provide information about how customers use their water on an hourly basis to, see their profile, maybe they might see that teenagers are having really long showers and they could actually see that what time of the day that's occurring and maybe implement some behavior change at a local level, but they're the big prize.
And then if you think about digital metering as just one aspect of a broader digital utility offering where we start to put digital technologies into our sewer mains, our water mains, at treatment plants to get real time information on the performance of those assets and connect that to the information that we're getting from the household and customer level for business customers. Then we actually see what's happening across our whole network.
And so then we can actually start to proactively intervene on where we might have small leaks in more domains that we can't see and fix those before they manifest themselves in some sort of large scale water main burst. Things like sewer monitoring as well. Trying to ensure that we don't have sewer spills into the environment by getting that real time information back. Because you know, frankly at the moment, most utilities when the infrastructure is not working, it's when the customers tell us. So this will flip that around and hopefully we'll be able to tell everyone else that there's something not quite right and get onto it efficiently and effectively.