Heather Pohl

Heather Pohl
Project Manager
Public Utilities Commission
City of San Francisco

Challenge

Most water meters in San Francisco are placed outside of homes, which allows for easy access. But there are still many homes whose meters are inside, which city employees can’t get to if someone isn’t present, known as “lockouts.” Also, billing cycles were 60 days. So if the PUC or customers noticed a change in water usage and suspected leaks or other issues, it might have been going on a long time. The city wanted a way to get readings despite lockouts and to transition to monthly billing without increasing its meter reading force.

Solution

A pilot program was initiated using advanced new “advanced metering infrastructure” technology for obtaining remote electronic reads from the lockout homes. AMI devices from third party Aclara were installed to connect to a central database allowing usage to be monitored in real time.

Coincidentally, the city was on schedule to replace its regular meters, and rather than complete the pilot, a business case study was conducted, showing that the $60 million project cost would be realized within 8 to 10 years. New meters are now being actively installed.

The PUC hopes to get 100% coverage of all water accounts soon and is also sharing the data on its “My Account” web portal for customers to view their data in between billing periods. A leak alert program is being launched this month to notify customers of constant usage that may be the result of a leak.

The result? Enhanced customer service, more accurate readings, almost instantaneous leak detection, less time visiting homes, and significant savings of both money and water for the city and customers.

Peripheral Piece of Advice

“This is a huge system. We receive 1.6 billion readings a year; it is a lot of data to manage. Don’t just throw your data out to the public. Find the readings that are most important to your ratepayers.”

Heather’s Background

From St. Louis, engineering degree from University of Missouri (‘96). Came to SF as a contractor 17 years ago. Loves the great food and nearby hiking.

Startling Fact

Went back to school to learn Italian (not just because it’s a beautiful language; husband is Italian).

Connect with Heather!

hpohl@sfwater.org

NOT GETTING CITYPALOOZA?