BREAKING BAD DATA

Posted By: Terry Smith Rural Life Stories ,


It is the goal of all businesses to operate efficiently in order to maximize their profit margin. Water & wastewater systems, which are typically non-profit, are no exception. Tracking the product of these systems, however, can be trickier than your standard business. Much of the product water and wastewater systems track is transported underground via piping. Any product lost in transportation must be accounted for by means other than standard visual confirmation, which is when accurate meter readings come into play.


A water system in Utah noticed something odd when they took a closer look at the numbers coming back from their meters. They determined that the readings, from month to month, came back many thousands of gallons apart. Worried that the system was losing thousands of gallons of water, warranting a potential costly repair, the system clerk contacted the Rural Water Association of Utah (RWAU). They asked for a technician to help them verify whether or not they were truly losing that amount of water, and if so, where was it going?


RWAU sent out Management Technician Terry Smith to investigate. Upon arrival, Terry glanced over the historical data from both the source and distribution meter readings. Systems often start out using erroneous data - whether that be from meters that are not accurate, calculations not being done correctly, incorrect meter reading multiplication factors (i.e. a factor of 100 is being used, when it should be 1000), or even something as simple as improper data entry. After validating the data, he then organized and consolidated it into a spreadsheet that calculated the difference in production and billings, allowing him to see the actual numbers and percentages.


The data showed that the actual water being lost was indeed acceptable within industry standards. The analysis done by Terry saved the system from ordering unnecessary repair. To help the system track these numbers more accurately going forward, he created within the spreadsheet the capacity to enter future data month to month as it is gathered. Doing so will allow system personnel to quickly see if the numbers are out of line, and then investigate the cause in a timely manner to see if the data is inaccurate or if they do in fact have actual water loss taking place.


RWAU can assist systems with many types of problems. These may include solutions to technical and managerial issues. All of these solutions result in water and wastewater systems that run more efficiently and cost-effectively thus providing their customers with better service. This ultimately should be the goal that all of our industry works toward.


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