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Nov 14, 2012 6:47 PM by Jake Merriman

IBM awards City of Tucson grant to improve water systems

TUCSON - Today, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild announced that IBM has awarded the City of Tucson and Tucson Water with a "Smarter Cities Challenge" Grant.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant program, which will provide the City of Tucson with access to IBM's top experts to work on ways Tucson can engage its customers and deliver public services more effectively.

"As water provider to a desert community, Tucson Water has long been at the forefront of managing water resources," says Mayor Rothschild in response. "We are honored to be recognized by IBM for our commitment to conservation and continuous improvement in service delivery."

IBM is awarding a total of $50 million worth of technology and services to 100 cities worldwide through 2013, according to a news release from the City of Tucson. City leaders will be provided with analysis and recommendations from teams of specially-selected IBM experts to support sustainable growth, better delivery of public services, more citizen involvement, and improved efficiency.

The City of Tucson was selected for its proposal to merge two technology improvements designed to increase water reliability. One of which will allow customers to monitor water use better, and the other will improve the operating efficiencies of the utility.

Currently, Tucson Water replaces old water meters with Automatic Meter Reading meters that can be read by electronic equipment carried by a meter reader walking or driving a route. This allows many more meters to be read in a day compared to have to physically read each meter, according to the news release. The new meters are also compatible with Advanced Metering Infrastructure technology, which will allow water use data to be collected remotely using wireless technology. Data collected through AMI systems can be accessed by customers through the internet, smartphones, or other technologies, and allows water use to be constantly monitored on a regular basis.

Customers are delivered water by Tucson Water through a network that includes more than 4,000 miles of pipelines, 220 wells, 114 booster stations, and 55 storage facilities to over 225,000 customers, the release states. A System Control and Data Acquisition program includes hardware and software that allows for the various elements to be monitored and controlled from a single point. Currently, Tucson Water is in the process of upgrading its existing SCADA system to increase operational efficiencies, including reducing the amount of energy required to deliver water to customers.

"Having these two technologies, digital water meters and SCADA, communicate with each other will benefit customers by allowing them to actually monitor water use on a daily basis. In addition, Tucson Water will be able to provide customers with immediate notification of suspected leaks or anomalous levels of water use," says Tucson Water Director Alan Forrest. "This will be complimented by the SCADA system's ability to monitor water use at levels ranging from individual accounts to larger delivery zones, helping us move water around in a more efficient manner, while reducing our energy costs."

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