Evaluation of Customer Information and Data Processing Needs for Demand Planning and Management

Authors:

  • Jack Kiefer - Hazen and Sawyer

A generalized model of utility information management processes. (Source: Kiefer, J.C. and L.R. Krentz. 2016. Evaluation of Customer Information and Data Processing Needs for Water Demand Analysis, Planning, and Management. Denver: Water Research Foundation.)

One of the recommendations from this report is to incorporate geographical referencing of water customers and unique locations, which associates metered water use records to the physical boundaries where water use occurs. (Source: Kiefer, J.C. and L.R. Krentz. 2016. Evaluation of Customer Information and Data Processing Needs for Water Demand Analysis, Planning, and Management. Denver: Water Research Foundation.)

Another recommendation is to preserve a minimum of 10 years metered water consumption history, so at any given time, the last decade of water usage trends can be examined.

Most water utilities regularly collect and maintain water use and additional water customer data to support multiple operational and planning functions. In addition to supporting customer billing and revenue collection, these data are often used for other specific purposes related to water demand planning and management such as:

  • Water demand forecasting
  • Water conservation program development
  • Water use benchmarking
  • Water shortage response, enforcement and mitigation planning
  • Water pricing and ratemaking
  • Water budget development

There is evidence to suggest that the types of data collected, along with the form in which this information is compiled and stored, can be a constraint on the quality and robustness of planning studies that depend on water demand data and analyses of information on water consumers. Several studies of residential and nonresidential water use trends suggest that research and analysis is hampered due to the lack of accurate, consistent data collection across both states and regions. The lack of a standardized customer classification has also been identified as factor complicating the water industry’s abilities for measuring, standardizing, and comparing utility performance and water use metrics.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the results of a study sponsored by the Water Research Foundation, which has been undertaken to identify the data collection and information management needs of water utility managers and planners, as well as the needs of other local, regional, State, and Federal agencies that depend on collection and analysis of municipal water demand data (Evaluation of Customer Information and Data Processing Needs for Water Demand Planning and Management, Water Research Foundation Project 4527).

This paper will report on the results of interviews with several North American water utilities, government agencies, and consultants to gather input and perspectives on data needs pertaining to water use and related customer-level information. This paper will characterize the overall “state of the industry” with respect to data attributes and processes important for water demand analysis and evaluation. The discussion will outline a practical set of “best practices” for collecting, processing, and maintaining specific information and data attributes and describe how they fit within common water demand planning and management objectives, including barriers and benefits for making a business case for more robust information management practices. The paper will summarize research recommendations for developing common and uniform standards in support of local, regional, and national water assessments that rely on water use data.

For more information, please contact the author at jkiefer@hazenandsawyer.com.

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