NSW local council tackles high levels of water losses head-on

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by Mark Halliwell – Taggle Systems

Narrabri Shire Council in New South Wales is adopting a new approach to tackling an old problem which affects most water utilities: water loss.

When Darren Raeck took up his new post of Director Infrastructure Delivery at Narrabri Shire Council in late 2016, he found that the shire was almost at the top of a list that would provide him with a real challenge.

That list, found in NSW Water Supply and Sewerage Benchmarking Report, showed Narrabri Shire Council as having the state’s third highest water losses among local water utilities with 3000-10,000 water connections.

Examining the data, Darren’s estimate was that the shire’s Real Losses were running at about 27 per cent. Not really where you’d want to be as the manager of water supplies for about 14,000 people in an area with water supply security concerns.

Prior to Darren joining the team at Narrabri Shire Council, about $1.7 million was allocated to replace the shire’s aging water meter fleet.

Having just arrived from Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water (GWM Water) in Victoria where he’d seen the success of its new LPWAN based Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system, Darren questioned the plan to simply replace old water meters with new ones.

When a preliminary review showed that an AMR system was feasible, the idea of using the meter replacement money to implement a remote meter reading system was fully investigated and a business case was developed.

That business case focused mainly on the current cost of meter reading, under-registration of the old meters, and the potential savings to be made by reducing non-revenue water (NRW) losses.

Darren’s view was that, by reducing water losses from 27 per cent to 17 per cent (still an uncomfortably high number), the NRW savings along with savings on manual meter reading would pay for his AMR system in less than five years.

Mindful of the potential impact an AMR system might have on some council employees, Darren approached his council to outline how, by reading water meters remotely, his staff would have more time to carry out proactive, preventative maintenance and move away from reactive works which never seemed to end.

Having already allocated the funds and seeing the potential of Darren’s plan, Council was quick to give him the green light.

A short-form tender was issued to prequalified suppliers through NSW’s Local Government Procurement (known as LocalBuy in QLD) and, after due consideration, a contract was awarded to Taggle Systems.

As of September 2017, Narrabri’s Taggle LPWAN was fully established across the shire’s eight towns, and about 80 per cent of the new water meters fitted with Taggle transmitters (Tags) were installed.

Darren and his team are now able to view data coming from these meters in the MiWater Meter Data Management software procured as part of the AMR system and have identified numerous potential customer leaks.

Although these leaks have been identified, Darren is keen for Taggle to complete its data validation and quality checks before putting the new system to work and contacting affected customers.

While Taggle’s LPWAN has been deployed to provide AMR services for Narrabri Shire Council, Darren is very conscious of how the network creates new opportunities for the wider community.

Narrabri Shire is situated in the heart of the very rich Namoi Valley, well known as a major cotton-producing region where economic output relies heavily on efficient water use.

Darren didn’t know it at the time he chose Taggle’s LPWAN for his AMR project but just down the road from his Narrabri office, 35km north-west of Wee Waa, the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) from the University of Southern Queensland was using the same Taggle network to collect high resolution rainfall and soil moisture data in support of research into autonomous furrow irrigation.

That project uses Taggle-equipped rain gauges and soil moisture sensors to monitor soil water content across large individual paddocks, allowing automated furrow irrigation to occur in a more precise and targeted manner.

Darren now realises that, with Taggle network more widely available throughout the shire in support of Council’s new AMR system, he has effectively created a new set of modern communications infrastructure which can be used to enhance the productivity of the entire region.

To help build awareness of this new facility, Darren will install a Taggle-connected council weather station as well as rain gauges at each of the shire’s towns.

While the data collected will help Darren and his team to better understand domestic water use across the shire, he wants to show the community how the council is leading the way in the adoption of new technology and encourage them to make use of it.

This partner content is brought to you by Taggle Systems. For more information, visit www.taggle.com.au .

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