Residents of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast will soon be able to check their water usage on a daily basis, analyse their consumption through a self-service dashboard, and receive electronic alerts of leaks when state-owned utility Unitywater undertakes a 12-month trial of digital water meters.
According to tender documents, the utility plans to install roughly 1000 meters in Noosa, Redcliffe, Caloundra, Caboolture and Morayfield to build up enough evidence to make the case for a region-wide rollout.
The devices, which will run in parallel with traditional water meters for the duration of the pilot, will measure a property’s water usage at a minimum of one-hour increments, and will transmit this data back to Unitywater’s measurement and billing systems at least once daily.
Unitywater anticipates it will eventually settle on an update frequency that balances data transmission costs, battery life and asset life against what customers feel they need to stay fully abreast of their water usage.
It plans to provide south-east Queensland residents the ability to log on to a “customer analytics dashboard” where they can see a graphic representation of their usage and run analysis on the ways they might cut it down.
The agency is also considering an alert functionality that would SMS, call, or email residents if their reading fails to hit zero for a full 24-hour period, signalling a leak.
Another purpose of the year-long trial will be to validate the digital readings against what the traditional water meters are measuring, to ensure accuracy. Customers participating in the trial will continue to be billed according to the existing meters.
The utility is making provisions for “significant communications and marketing” over the period including customer surveys pre, post and during the pilot.
It anticipates that in the long term a digital metering solution will deliver savings through reduced manual meter reads - because data is electronically transmitted back to HQ - and reduced rebates paid to customers who have suffered a leak.
However, some of Unitywater’s peers have struggled to make a case for the expensive devices given water is a relatively cheap resource, meaning the savings dividend often struggles to match the initial outlay.