New water meters to help transform Dunedin into smart, environmentally friendly city

Water from a tap
The new system will make managing and monitoring water usage more effective Photo credit: Getty Images

Dunedin City Council (DCC) has implemented a new, smart water metering system as part of its move to becoming a city that delivers the objectives of the controversial Three Waters policy.

The new system is designed to improve the efficiency of the city water network by managing and monitoring water usage more effectively, the DCC said.

That should save on meter reading costs as well as reducing inaccuracies in billing data for commercial premises.

The new system is deployed via Spark New Zealand's new Internet of Things (IoT) network, NB-IoT.

Smart technology company AD Riley are rolling out the meters which are connected on the NB-IoT network and providing usage information to Dunedin City Council.

David Ward, Dunedin City Council's group manager Three Waters, said the meters should also save money for the average ratepayer although it's more about "achieving the environmental benefits, water savings, and the vision of Dunedin being a one of the world's great small cities".

The forecasted net benefits per annum are approximately $800,000 per year after operating costs.

"The DCC water system includes 21,000 hectares of water catchment, six operational water treatment plants, 57 storage reservoirs, 35 pumping stations and 1450km of pipes," Ward said.

"The processes, technology and systems were dated, with over 60 percent of the water meter network nearing end of life and registering less flow which would result in non-streamlined processes between the meter reader, system input, and invoicing.

"This new system flips us into a world where instead of resources being chewed up by routine inaccuracies, we can now focus on efficiency gains."

Smart metering means the council now has accurate, real-time data across all non-residential properties.

"This allows us to facilitate metering changes more swiftly and bill more accurately," Ward said.

"Faults and leaks are more easily identified and fixed, leading to cost and water savings across the board, and property owners are empowered to manage their water consumption via a service portal solution that visually displays their water usage."

The University of Otago and Port Otago are already using the new smart meters. The university has 200 water meters while the largest user of water in Dunedin, Port Otago, has six.

One of the Port meters has been collecting data since April 2021 and has already flagged three leaks, the council said.

Tony Agar, Spark IoT Lead, said the new Dunedin City Council smart water metering solution will create a good base for Dunedin's smart city teams to build from.

"Dunedin is a fantastic city, with a strong network of accessible and connected communities and DCC have seen the opportunity to significantly improve efficiency and sustainability by transitioning to a smart water meter network.

"It also allows the council to create a more sustainable operation, to live up to their sustainability strategy and realise cost savings for their commercial property ratepayers."