Creating a GIS database of utility meters enables service providers to locate meters more easily for readings and maintenance and lays the groundwork for Automated Meter Reading (AMR), which drastically reduces the time it takes to read the meters, decreases the number of unread meters due to obstructions or pets, and eliminates transposition errors. Because the City of Greensboro does not rely on any third parties to read water meters or process payments for water bills, the City sought to develop a water meter inventory to reduce the time and expense associated with administering accounts.
Of the approximately 17,000 meters to be inventoried first, WithersRavenel identified 1,243 meters for a pilot project to understand where and how meters were typically installed and determine the most efficient way to approach the data collection process. Using handheld GPS, WithersRavenel spent approximately two weeks locating and recording the meters in the pilot project list, fine-tuning the method in the field; satisfied with the results, WithersRavenel expanded the process to the remaining meters.
All GPS information was submitted in an ESRI geodatabase, with XY attributes and comments for each meter. Any meter blocked by landscaping or other obstruction had its location marked within a reasonable distance of the meter with a comment indicating the amount of the offset. Any meter that could not be located was flagged “not found” and the location of the property was provided in lieu of the precise location of the meter. WithersRavenel’s approach and the resulting database are scalable for the rest of the City’s water meters, which means the City’s only challenge now is deciding the multiple uses of the information at its fingertips.