Data Transfer and Systematic Data Handling Errors

The customer water meter is only the beginning of a sometimes complicated trail that ultimately generates a large amount of customer consumption data. Since most water utilities manage data for many thousands of customers, systematic data-handling inaccuracies can easily be masked by the shear volume of the bulk data. Figure 11.2 gives an overview of the typical steps existing in the data trail from meter to historical archive.

In any of the above steps errors can be introduced into the output data that is ultimately documented as customer consumption. Some of the ways in which the integrity of customer consumption data may be compromised are

• Data transfer errors

• Manual meter-reading errors

• Automatic meter-reading equipment failure

1. Customer meter accurately registers water flow

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2. Routine meter reading taken, manually or automatically

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3. Meter readings are transferred to customer billing

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4. Customer consumption is shown on water bill & archived

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5. Aggregate consumption data summarized on reports

Figure 11.2 Metered consumption data archival path. (Source: Ref. 6.)

• Data analysis errors

• Use of poorly estimated volumes in lieu of meter readings

• Customer billing adjustments granted by manipulating actual metered consumption data

• Poor customer account management: accounts not activated, lost, or transferred erroneously

• Policy and procedure shortcomings

• Despite policies for universal customer metering, certain customers are intentionally left unmeasured or unread. This is common for municipally owned buildings in water utilities run by local governments.

• Provisions allowing customer accounts to enter "nonbilled" status, a potential loophole often exploited by fraud, or unmonitored due to poor management.

• Adjustment policies that do not take into account preservation of actual customer consumption.

• Bureaucratic regulations or performance lapses that cause delays in permitting, metering, or billing operations.

• Organizational divisions or tensions within the utility that do not recognize the importance or "big picture" of water loss control.

The above list provides but a few of the data-handling problems that might be encountered in a drinking water utility. It is not exhaustive, however, and almost any utility might identify an apparent loss situation that is unique to their organization. Any action that unduly modifies the actual amount of customer consumption can be considered an apparent loss. The IWA Water Loss Task Force did not specifically identify data-handling error as a source of apparent loss during the initial work published by Alegre et al.4; however subsequent articles published by IWA and AWWA clearly define this category. The AWWA Water Loss Control Committee considers such manipulations of data as apparent losses.5

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Responses

  • simon
    How do i figure the systematic data handling discrepancy for twdb water loss?
    2 years ago

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