Sunday, March 31, 2013

We Are Going To Teach Your Old Water Meter Some New Tricks

Beginning on May 1, the City of Clinton will begin the process of upgrading all electric and water meters in the city to a new AMR system. This effort represents a significant change in the management of our utility system and will bring many benefits for the utility and for the customer.

Automated meter reading, or AMR, is a method of using communication technology to read meters without having to access the customer's property. The City of Clinton’s AMR system will use meters equipped with wireless transmitters. Once the meter infrastructure is upgraded, reading of meters will be done remotely and customers will not see a field service technician reading their meter in the same manner that it is read currently.

Many of the city’s more than 4,000 water meters have been in service for decades and an overall system upgrade is due. The water meters make up a critical component of our water distribution infrastructure. As a water meter ages the moving parts inside the meter can become worn or gather mineral deposits which slow the meter mechanisms resulting in the meter recording less water use than is actually occurring.

Unlike cities in colder climates, our water meters are located outside of your home or business in a meter box or pit. Usually this box can be found in front of your home, near the street. Because the meter is not inside your home or businesses, you will not have to be present when your current water meter is exchanged for a new meter.

The process of changing your water meter will take about fifteen minutes and will be performed by city personnel between 8 AM and 7 PM. You should expect a very short service interruption while the technician replaces your meter. When your neighborhood is scheduled for meter upgrades, you will receive a notice in advance in your utility bill. Be on the lookout for this notice which will give you a time frame in which to expect a city employee to change out your meter. After the meter is changed, city personnel will leave a door hanger at your residence or businesses to notify you that the change has been completed. All change outs will be conducted by city employees. City employees drive trucks with the city logo and department on the door and wear a city issued uniform. Additionally, all city employees are issued photo identification cards, which you can request to see.

Your new water meter will use a radio signal to communicate with the computer devices that are used to read the meter. The signal meets all FCC requirements and will not interfere with any household electronics that you may have. Each radio frequency device has a unique identification number, which is transmitted along with the meter reading. The unique number is compared to your account record to ensure a match. Your account data is stored in a secure computer system and is not accessible to the meter reading devices.

With AMR technology, the utility staff can collect meter readings much quicker. A recent test conducted by our utility billing division using the new technology reduced meter reading time in one area of our city from hours to minutes. The new meters will assist customers in detecting large water leaks and utility staff in detecting malfunctioning or tampered meters. Additionally, additional information and the analysis of the information can help both utility staff and customers better manage the city’s water usage and keep costs down.

While we are taking steps to increase the efficiency of your water utility system, there are some things you can do to reduce your water use and your water and sewer bill. A good place to start is by checking for leaks in your home.  A leaking faucet can cost you an extra $2 to $3 dollars a month. A leaking toilet can be a much larger drain on your wallet by costing, on average, an extra $37 to $52 each month. You may think you don’t have a leak, but the fact is that at least ten percent of all homes lose 90 gallons or more each day due to water leaking from faucets, toilets, appliances, and pipes.

The AMR water meter project will take the City of Clinton three years to complete. Once finished, the project will result in a system that provides  a greater amount of data that can drive future decision making, improve the operational efficiency and accuracy of our water utility system, and provide more information that we can use together to make sure that you are getting the best water utility system possible for the money that you put into it.