Exploring the Energy Benefits of Advanced Water Metering

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Recent improvements to advanced water metering and communications technologies have the potential to improve the management of water resources and utility infrastructure, benefiting both utilities and ratepayers. The highly granular, near-real-time data and opportunity for automated control provided by these advanced systems may yield operational benefits similar to those afforded by similar technologies in the energy sector. While significant progress has been made in quantifying the water-related benefits of these technologies, the research on quantifying the energy benefits of improved water metering is underdeveloped. Some studies have quantified the embedded energy in water in California, however these findings are based on data more than a decade old, and unanimously assert that more research is needed to further explore how topography, climate, water source, and other factors impact their findings. In this report, we show how water-related advanced metering systems may present a broader and more significant set of energy-related benefits. We review the open literature of water-related advanced metering technologies and their applications, discuss common themes with a series of water and energy experts, and perform a preliminary scoping analysis of advanced water metering deployment and use in California. We find that the open literature provides very little discussion of the energy savings potential of advanced water metering, despite the substantial energy necessary for water’s extraction, conveyance, treatment, distribution, and eventual end use. We also find that water AMI has the potential to provide water-energy co-efficiencies through improved water systems management, with benefits including improved customer education, automated leak detection, water measurement and verification, optimized system operation, and inherent water and energy conservation. Our findings also suggest that the adoption of these technologies in the water sector has been slow, due to structural economic and regulatory barriers. In California, we see examples of deployed advanced metering systems with demonstrated embedded energy savings through water conservation and leak detection. We also see substantial untapped opportunity in the agricultural sector for enabling electric demand response for both traditional peak shaving and more complex flexible and ancillary services through improved water tracking and farm automation.

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