Mareeba Shire Council calls itself a growing, confident, and sustainable Shire. Mareeba has a diverse array of landscapes, from the wet tropics to the dry savannah outback. That creates an acute understanding of needing to properly manage their water resources, along with other sustainability goals.
With the help of Taggle Systems and a successful smart water metering program, Mareeba has made a difference for its residents and achieved sustainability goals.
Morris Hamill is the Water and Waste Manager at Mareeba Shire Council. He has been involved in the water and wastewater industry for over 35 years and was an early adopter of smart water metering as he saw the sustainability benefits the solution could provide.
“By implementing smart water meters, we have supported more responsible and sustainable water usage across our region. Water treatment and distribution is an energy-intensive process. By reducing wasted water, we are also saving on power and the chemicals required to treat the water unnecessarily. Reduced fuel consumption from quarterly meter reads and regular special reads also deliver towards our sustainability goals within Council.”
Mareeba’s smart water journey
Hamill explains the beginning of Mareeba’s smart water journey. “In 2007, Mareeba Shire Council was amalgamated with the Shires of Atherton, Eacham, and Herberton to form Tablelands Regional Council. However, we sought to de-amalgamate. Mareeba Shire Council was re-established in 2014, allowing us to independently manage our water resources again. The desire to pursue our own destiny saw us reach out to Taggle to improve our water metering systems.”
“Mareeba needed to improve its meter reading process. External contractors were using antiquated meter reading equipment, which tended to be problematic in terms of accuracy and data presentation,” said Hamill. “The process of manually reading the meters was also resource intensive and provided very little data to help manage the network on a day-to-day basis.”
“As a council, we were looking at hiring more staff to look after our meter reading or to head down the smart water metering path. At the time, there were not many providers,” he said. “The only company that had any runs on the board in this field was Taggle Systems. Mackay Regional Council, Taggle’s founding customer, was very open about sharing their knowledge and experience with us.”
Mareeba being in Far North Queensland meant Mackay was relatively close by. He and other council representatives met with Mackay Regional Council, with visits both ways. “This allowed us to understand how the technology worked by seeing a live and working system, what benefits were being realised and what challenges might arise.” Mackay had reduced their water demand significantly by implementing the Taggle solution, which deferred the need to build a new water treatment plant and ensure the sustainability of its water supplies.
Hamill also met with representatives from Taggle. They came to council offices to ensure we understood the full end-to-end solution and the steps to roll out the system.
“Taggle offered to run a trial for us. However, Council felt that they had learned a lot from what Mackay were doing and were confident to go ahead,” he said. “The decision was made to go to the market to see if there were any other options. When we looked at the proposals, Taggle had the only reasonable one.”
“We decided to do the full rollout across our population of about 22,000 people in the Mareeba area in 2015 and smaller areas in 2016. There were no integrated smart water meters back then. We changed a large portion of aged and worn meters for new ones, then added the Taggle telemetry devices, which sent the meter readings back to us every hour.”
“Taggle worked with us to train local contractors to properly install the transmitters to the water meters and sync the data back to the meter management software, Aqualus Water, which back then was known as MiWater,” said Hamill. “Taggle was really proactive in working with the contractors to ensure that everything was done correctly. They were doing verifications and other checks so data would be transmitted and received properly.”
Benefits to the community and council
Many of the old meters were no longer working correctly. Changing the meters made a huge difference instantly in reducing non-revenue water. While this isn’t a direct benefit of the smart metering data, the project quickly recovered some costs through the infrastructure update and ensured fair and even charges for our end users.
This is where negativity can sometimes come up from residents, and councils have been wary of the feedback when it comes to installing smart metering systems. However, Hamill said that the community was on board early on.
“The community really embraced what we were doing, and that feedback was also going to the elected council members,” he said. “We were amazed at how enthusiastic they were about having these new automated meters. I think it was well received because it allowed them to understand more about their water usage. The ability to pick up leaks was key because people didn’t realise they had these substantial leaks.”
In the first week, Mareeba found 284 leaks across the network. Most were relatively small, but the volume of water lost quickly adds up when viewed as a whole. Some, however, were quite significant and wasted a lot of water.
“We found one resident who had a leak of about 1500 litres an hour! His block was on the sand, so he couldn’t see how much water was being lost. Once we showed him a graph and a table of what was happening, he was astonished,” said Hamill.
Sustainable smart meters
“It is leaks like these that greatly impact our sustainability goals and finding them quickly helps us with demand management. It ensures we can deliver water to our community over the long-term responsibly and sustainably.”
“When we look at the long-term goals, the Council is very focused on sustainability,” said Hamill. “Because we now have the water data, it helps us form policies around the water networks and how it integrates into society. It goes hand in hand with our governance policies and sustainability outlook.”
For more information, visit https://taggle.com/
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