Changing Water System Operations

New Mexico’s largest water utility optimizes system with seamless technology integration

Changing Water System Operations

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority has adopted a more proactive approach to managing water pressure and eliminating service interruptions. 

Interested in Flow Control?

Get Flow Control articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Flow Control + Get Alerts

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is the largest water utility in New Mexico, with a team of 148 employees serving more than half a million people. Crews have always responded to service issues as they were reported, but the utility realized that this approach wasn’t sufficient amid growing demand in New Mexico’s most populous county.

The utility began examining their internal operations in an effort to reinforce their commitment to providing customers with clean, drinkable water. One issue that surfaced was the water service interruptions for some customers.

Continuous improvement

The water service provider quickly recognized the need for improvement, and the staff began looking for ways to prioritize what to tackle first. Better pressure management became a focus. Finding more proactive methods to manage water pressure across the service territory meant the utility could reduce the amount of water loss they saw each year, leading to lower costs and a more efficient use of staff time.

This led to a reinvigorated approach to water service in order to improve efficiency, performance and customer service. The utility turned to digital solutions to begin shifting their methods for water pressure management, device monitoring and issue response. These remotely managed solutions laid the groundwork for seamless application integration and other upgrades to the water system in the years to come.

“The goal is to install 20,000 to 25,000 endpoints each year so that our entire system will rely fully on advanced metering infrastructure within three to four years,” says Joel Berman, chief engineer of the water authority.

In 2011, the authority began utilizing smart water technology from Sensus, a Xylem brand. Most recently they’ve added another layer of technology to continuously monitor and manage water pressure in near real-time, all from the convenience of their offices.

Seamless integration

“When it comes to water pressure management, proactivity is key,” says Berman. “We keep our customers happy by remotely monitoring their water consumption and pressure to ensure any potential issues are identified before they experience them.”

The residential water meters report pressure data into the easily accessible, cloud-hosted Sensus Analytics Pressure Profile Application.

“This technology has taken many steps out of our typical pressure management process, including administrative tasks and truck rolls,” says Patrick Bayardo, an operations and maintenance superintendent at the water authority. “Now, we simply log into the website in the morning and the data is right at our fingertips. It’s a big time-saver for us.”

The application works with the FlexNet communication network to provide seamless data collection from residential meters in the service territory. The data is then presented in easy-to-understand map-based graphs that show pressure zones and levels within the community at any given time. Utility personnel receive automated alerts when pressure deviations occur.

“A customer noticed his new irrigation system was experiencing lower pressure than usual and just stopped working,” Berman says. “Using Pressure Profile, we were able to identify, resolve and restore the system pressure quickly — in only a matter of hours. The customer was grateful, and it was a positive experience for everyone involved.”

Optimizing performance

The water authority also added the battery-powered Sensus Smart Gateway Sensor Interface at pressure-reducing valve sites to monitor water distribution system performance. The sensors, ally meters and pressure management software work within the FlexNet system to locate the cause of ongoing pressure spikes.

“We discovered an open valve — not mapped on our system — that was overpressurizing from one zone to another,” Bayardo says. “Pressure Profile brings us the data we need in the timeframe we need it to troubleshoot and optimize each pressure zone for optimal performance.” 

Berman says it’s been a seamless solution that technicians have adopted, installed and programmed without third-party assistance.

Efficient operations

The efficiency and convenience of smart water solutions have enhanced the water authority’s workflow. According to Bayardo, shifting from a “boots-on-the-ground” approach to digital technology where the data is readily available has saved the utility service calls and routine maintenance.

“Now we can pinpoint areas and resolve potential water pressure issues within hours, when it used to take weeks,” Bayardo says.

The utility was an early adopter of smart water technology and hopes to continue improving operations.

“I’m proud to say that in the last decade we’ve collectively transitioned from being reactive to highly proactive with regards to water distribution pressures,” Berman says. “These days, if we don’t identify an issue before the customer, something is wrong. It’s not just about monitoring the pressure, it’s about changing the way we do business.”

More work to do

The water authority is always seeking ways to improve. In the coming years, they plan to dig deeper into their advanced pressure management data for hydraulic model verification to further improve both water loss and quality — and to meet their goal of having their entire system rely fully on AMI.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.