Orlando Utilities Commission leverages data to drive water conservation

By Talend Team

Water and energy conservation are important goals in virtually every state, region, and municipality across the United States. In Orlando, FL, water conservation recently became an urgent imperative for unexpected reasons.

Orlando Utilities Commission’s water treatment plants use liquid oxygen to produce ozone gas, a vital component of OUC’s water purification process. Last summer, OUC, a municipal utility, found itself facing a critical shortage of liquid oxygen due to a regional surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations related to the spread of the delta variant. Health care providers needed liquid oxygen for respiratory treatments of seriously ill COVID patients, creating a supply shortage impacting OUC’s water treatment capacity. 

Therefore, OUC had no choice but to ask its residential and commercial customers to reduce water consumption, adding that a boil water notice could be issued if its water treatment facilities didn’t have enough liquid oxygen on hand to meet the demand for water.

At the same time, OUC began employing a groundbreaking, cloud-based meter-data collection and analytics technology to help identify customers using unusually high amounts of water. A spike in water usage is often found to be caused by a leak in a customer’s home or irrigation system. By using meter data to pinpoint outliers in water usage, OUC could alert those customers of a possible leak on their property and send a Conservation Specialist to help them find the leak.

This data-driven conservation initiative was made possible by OUC’s commitment, in the words of its Meter Data Operations Manager, Dawn Frye, to “stop throwing data away” and start using it to drive usage optimization and more efficient business operations.

The vision: A single operational cloud data lake

Working with internal stakeholders and external partners, OUC defined and detailed its vision of a cloud-based data lake to unify all of its meter data and service point information to support endpoint management. Device, field work, alerts, and notifications would all be captured in a single repository.

Once its innovative Meter Data Platform (MDP) was deployed in 2020, OUC could collect and analyze usage data from more than 450,000 accounts. More than 23 terabytes of data were collected in a two-year period. This usage data was orchestrated by the Talend Cloud Real-Time Big Data Platform and the Talend Cloud Data Management Platform.

The MDP now provides immediate access to data, making it available for the team to quickly address critical business problems as they arise.

Talend’s transformational capabilities

According to Frye, OUC selected Talend for the MDP project because it provided a repeatable and powerful way not only to profile data, but to embed data quality rules into their pipelines. Talend can also perform and orchestrate analytics across huge datasets in coordination with Snowflake, the cloud-based data warehousing partner that was an integral part of the MDP initiative.

Snowflake company logo

Talend provides configurable components to shorten the learning curve while still enabling more sophisticated approaches. Having an easy and powerful way to parse unstructured data and the ability to embed data quality checks within ETL/ELT processes saves the OUC team time and effort while raising overall data quality. The OUC team also began to leverage advanced features, such as the suite of Spark tools, to enable capabilities including streaming and big data operations.

OUC Meter Data Ops won a 2021 Talend Data Masters AwardOUC Meter Data Ops won a 2021 Talend Data Masters Award

Results: Reductions in usage, increases in efficiency, cost savings

Using the Talend-orchestrated MDP, OUC’s data team created new capabilities that led to quantified results in conservation and business efficiency.

“The team built four data algorithms, two extracts, and one visualization to detect high water use, wrong-day meters, high electric use, and leaks,” said Frye. “This effort has enabled us to work with consumers and businesses to reduce resource consumption and replace an Oracle solution that had an annual maintenance fee of $400,000.”

Talend and the Meter Data Platform helped OUC to innovate and increase the value of our Advanced Metering Infrastructure technologies. This platform has transformed the team into a valuable service that continues to lead the way for meter data analytics and improve business capabilities.
— Dawn Frye, Meter Data Operations manager, Orlando Utilities

The MDP has helped OUC to implement 17 new use cases (business processes) utilizing data that had never been available previously. “Without Talend’s processing capabilities, we would not have been able to consume this volume of data,” said Frye.

OUC used automation to identify and correct 15,000 service points with geographic coordinates, saving 2,500 hours of data entry. The team also built Snowflake data infrastructure utilizing Talend to pipe in datasets, enabling business operations teams to access and process multi-year historical data efficiently without assistance from IT.

Prepared for the unexpected

With healthy data and more efficient operations, OUC was better prepared for any eventuality — even the unpredictable ripple effects of COVID-19.

To address the pressing need to conserve water in the face of the pandemic, OUC Water Production continues to work diligently to optimize the use of liquid oxygen. OUC also uses data from its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), or smart meters, to identify water customers who may be using excessive amounts of water and ask them to immediately limit water use on their lawns and landscapes. Lawn and landscaping irrigation accounts for 40% of water use in Central Florida, making it the most critical way to reduce water consumption.​

“Talend and the MDP helped OUC to innovate and increase the value of our AMI technologies,” said Frye. "This platform has transformed the team into a valuable service that continues to lead the way for meter data analytics and improve business capabilities.”