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How smart water meters work

The differences between AMR and smart meters.

Castle Water has received an influx of queries from customers enquiring about installing smart meters for water in their businesses to improve billing; however, many assume the smart meters available for water are similar to those for electricity and gas. To clarify why other utility smart meters cannot be a substitute for AMR devices in the water industry, we will cover

  • What is a smart meter?
  • Why other utility smart meters cannot be installed to measure water consumption
  • What is an AMR device?
  • Differences between AMR devices and smart meters
  • Benefits of using AMR

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters have become a buzzword over recent years. As part of a government strategy to effectively monitor energy consumption, all UK businesses are being offered an energy smart meter before 2025. Subsequently more customers have been enquiring about the benefits and installation of other utility smart meters. The rise in enquiries for AMR for water meters may be due to customers having the expectation that they can get a similar ‘smart meter’ device to those available for other utilities for their water meter. AMR, while highly beneficial, does require an initial investment for purchase and installation.

A smart meter’s main function is to “provide automatic meter reading; regular, remote readings resulting in monthly charges matching monthly consumption”.

Dr Alex Murdoch, Castle Water’s Technical Relationship Manager, further explains that “smart meters can also provide analysis tools and alarms to help better manage consumption, identify leaks and other problems sooner; all to improve overall water efficiency”.

In order to do this, smart meters need to be able to communicate. This could be through using Wi-Fi, mobile phone networks or radio frequency.

Why other utility smart meters cannot be installed to measure water consumption

To manage expectations a little better, smart meters used in the energy market are specifically:

  1. low-cost, mass-produced devices that are not suitable for the water industry
  2. devices that cost can be covered as part of normal service


Low-cost smart metering for electricity (combined with higher average spend per customer) makes the ‘free’ provision of smart metering viable in the energy market. However, the opposite can be said for the water market, and unfortunately customer expectations do not always reflect this.

What is an AMR device?

The general description of AMR, Dr Murdoch defines as being “essentially synonymous with smart metering – although the term can often be used to describe the device which attaches to the existing (compatible) meter; only the combination of a meter equipped with AMR together counts as a smart meter”.

These advanced devices are installed to meters that are usually underground which poses a challenge for the remote communication of data.

Differences between AMR devices and smart meters


Standardised, mass-produced smart meters (like those used in the electrical industry) do not have a suitable interface to be used in the water industry. Water meters are typically installed underground which limits options for communication. If a mass-produced smart meter was fitted underground, it would not be able to get a signal. More specialised technology is therefore required in AMR devices to ensure a signal is received and that data can be communicated back to customers and suppliers.


The cost of AMR devices is also much higher than smart meters used in the energy industry. The technology used in AMR devices is more expensive and these devices have higher network costs. Unfortunately, low cost and mass-produced AMR devices are not yet available in the water industry. However, the benefits of AMR completely outweigh the costs. For instance, businesses with accurate billing, based on their water usage, can save thousands of pounds. The ease of AMR means time saved from not taking physical monthly meter readings. This particularly benefits large, multiple site organisations and agricultural customers.

Benefits of using AMR devices

Customer (user)


Ready to install AMR?


Talk to our expert Castle Water team today about installing AMR in your business by calling 01250 718718 or sending us an email at

Read more about our services, including business water services, wastewater management & water efficiency audits.

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