Case Study: Oro Valley Water Utility, AZ


Oro Valley - A Playful Desert Community

Located north of Tucson, Arizona, the Town of Oro Valley got its beginnings in 1874 as a bustling cattle ranch. Rimmed by the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains, the Town served as a popular stopover for travelers going to and from Tucson.

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Oro Valley grew into a very prosperous community and finally incorporated in 1974. The Town is continually rated as one of the best places to live and launch a business, and in 2004 was voted one of the "Ten most playful towns in America."

Oro Valley Water Utility serves a population of about 42,000 people via 19,000 residential and commercial service connections. Situated at 2,600 ft above sea level, this elevated desert receives less than 12 in. of rain each year.

Because of limited renewable water resources, nominal rainfall and hotter than average temperatures, water resource management is a key focus for the utility and its customers. The Utility offers a variety of programs to encourage customers to be water efficient including: free water conservation audits for residential and commercial property owners, educational programs, rain sensor discounts, water harvesting, incentives and other unique cooperative agreements.


Making a Measurable Difference for Customers Every Day

Oro Valley Water is also strongly committed to providing outstanding service to its customers. As part of this commitment, the Utility invested in a fixed base Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system designed to improve operational efficiencies, eliminate manual meter readings and associated expenses, and improve customer service.

One major benefit of the AMI system is that it can gather usage data, several times a day, automatically. This data can be used to detect leaks, tampers and reverse flow issues. It can also help identify accounts that are using water inefficiently so that the Utility can provide individualized assistance.

When Oro Valley Water initially presented the AMI system to its board and the community, a key selling point was the promise that customers would be able to use the data recorded by the system to help manage their water usage and costs, and be notified of potential leaks.

The Utility initially looked to the meter reading equipment manufacturer Sensus, to provide a customer portal solution. The Sensus customer portal was tied to another software program and could not be purchased as a standalone application. The cost for the package deal was exorbitant. In addition, the package lacked water conservation management capabilities the Utility was looking for and Oro Valley was concerned about getting adequate technical support. The Utility also reviewed other custom applications but didn't find one that met their specific needs.


The Extremely User-Friendly Customer Portal

When Oro Valley staff saw AmCoBi's AquaHawk Alerting™ solution, they knew it would be a solid fit.

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This product is very impressive. It's extremely user-friendly and presents information that is immediately understandable by our diverse and sometimes non-technical users. AquaHawk will really help us engage our customers and deliver information that they want and can use.
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    -- Shirley Seng, Water Utility Administrator, Oro Valley Water Utility  
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Accurate Leak Detection and Proactive Notification are Critical

With water being such a precious resource in this desert community, accurately identifying leaks and rapidly notifying customers so that repairs can be made, is an important duty for the water department. Data from the Sensus FlexNet system is automatically uploaded into the AquaHawk portal several times a day.

After each data update, AquaHawk uses statistical data analysis to look for consumption patterns that indicate intermittent or continuous flow leaks, water restriction violations, backflow issues or potential over-irrigation.

Alerts are generated so that Oro Valley staff can reach out and notify customers quickly. When customers register for access to their online accounts in the portal, they can specify how they want to be contacted: e-mail, text, Web, or telephone call.

"AquaHawk makes it so much easier to contact customers in their preferred mode of communication," commented Ms. Seng. "By letting them know about potential issues, we can influence our community to take more immediate action and reduce unnecessary water losses."


Actionable Guidance Customers Understand

It's one thing to talk about ways customers can be more water efficient, and a completely different thing when you can show them. "We are committed to enhancing the services we offer our customers," said Ms. Seng. "One of the ways we do that is to give customers a view into their water usage. Customers can access the AquaHawk portal, and see how much water they're using, hour by hour, day by day, and month to month. They can see how much that water's costing them during the billing cycle so there are no surprises when the bill arrives."

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This tool is so powerful. It combines information from several applications including billing, the meter data management system, and weather stations. AquaHawk makes it easy for our team to quickly pull up an account, see what's going on, and take action if needed. It also encourages our community to be self-reliant.
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    -- Shirley Seng, Water Utility Administrator, Oro Valley Water Utility  
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Water Conservation - Expanding Programs for Improved Results

Oro Valley Water is excited about unique ways AquaHawk can be used in the future. They already conduct onsite irrigation audits for customers where they take an inventory of the irrigation system--e.g. number and type of sprinklers--measure landscape area, and record a variety of information about how the account uses water outdoors.

AquaHawk offers a water conservation management module where the audit forms can be integrated into the database. Oro Valley staff members will be able to bring an iPad or other tablet computer onsite and conduct the surveys.

The Utility also plans to hold training sessions for its residential customers, homeowner associations, and multi-family properties where they have identified opportunities for water savings.


About AquaHawk Software

AquaHawk™ is an affordable, user-friendly customer portal solution for water utilities that have installed fixed base AMI/AMR meter reading systems. The application offers valuable customer service and water efficiency benefits. Our water provider clients find that it increases consumer engagement, enhances customer satisfaction, and reduces wasted water.

AquaHawk also simplifies the leak detection and notification process, enables utility staff members to more easily respond to customer inquiries, and gives customers the tools they need to manage their water usage and costs.

Developed by AmCoBi, AquaHawk is a vendor neutral solution that integrates with Sensus FlexNet™, Aclara STAR® Network, KP Electronics MegaNet, Itron ChoiceConnect™, Neptune R450™ and R900®, Badger GALAXY®/ORION, Datamatic MOSAIC™ and other leading systems.