EJ Water Cooperative, located in southeastern Illinois, was having difficulties scheduling the nearly 4,000-mile monthly drive to complete its meter reading cycle. The utility covers a 2,400-square mile service area and has approximately 40,000 customers. The rising cost of the cooperative’s aging system and the need to reduce operating expenses prompted the search for a new meter reading setup.

Bill Teichmiller, CEO of EJ Water Cooperative, was looking for a true water management system that would provide real-time usage information. “We strive to be on the forefront of technology, and we knew that for our large geographic service area, a cellular solution would be the way to go.”

EJ Water found the water management system it was looking for in Badger Meter. Enabled by ORION Cellular endpoints, Badger Meter’s BEACON Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) system provides near real-time water usage information to the utility and the end water customer. The system delivers the data through the EyeOnWater app for smartphones and tablets. Teichmiller decided to pilot BEACON AMA, starting with the water service provided to the utility’s board of directors.

“We installed the system at the board members’ homes to prove the impact of this solution. Within hours of having it fully functional, we established that the president of the board had a constant leak of about 5 or 6 gallons an hour,” Teichmiller says. Without having to send a crew to investigate, the utility could immediately see when the problem had been fixed by using the BEACON AMA software suite. The board of directors was sold and gave the go-ahead to put the system into operation. Installation was completed October 2014.

Before the system installation, 35 percent of work orders were customer disputes about usage, which cost $34 per work order on average. With the new system in place, EJ Water Cooperative can determine whether there is a leak without having to send a technician to the location, thereby reducing the cost per work order. In 2016, work orders dropped by 47 percent, resulting in $93,000 a year in savings. Customers are also more self-sufficient and accountable for their water usage by using EyeOnWater.

“We’ve trained many of our customers to use the mobile app and website so they can check their usage at their leisure,” Teichmiller says. With customers accessing near real-time water usage information through the EyeOnWater app, EJ Water has seen a 20 percent drop in inbound customer center phone calls.

The reduction in staff-hours has allowed EJ Water personnel to make better strategic decisions about upcoming projects and has allowed them to be more proactive in repairing high-value assets. They were also able to move staff from the field service team to other projects to help them finish ahead of schedule, including expanding the installation of BEACON AMA.

Go here for information on Badger Meter.

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