City speeds up high tech water meter project
March 08, 2013
The Carlsbad Municipal Water District has hit the halfway mark in an ambitious project to replace water meters throughout the city with new automated models that save time and money. (Watch videos about water conservation.)
The water district has accelerated the meter replacement program, said Mario Remillard, who is overseeing the project for the water district and expects to complete the program in two years, rather than 15 years from now, the original date.
“We’ll have replaced 18,000 out of 28,887 meters by the end of June, which is 63 percent of all district meters,” Remillard said. “Everything south of Cannon Road will be on our new drive-by system, and we’ll begin replacing meters north of Cannon in July.”
The new meters provide more accurate reads and deliver better usage history. This saves money for the district and its customers by reducing both labor costs and “lost” water that is caused by leaks.
“It used to take eight hours to read the meters in the industrial area, now it takes 40 minutes,” Remillard said. “On average it takes 15 minutes to cover an area that used to take three hours.”
The drive-by technology also speeds billing, because the account technician downloads information from a single laptop that gathered the data, instead of recording data from five hand-held computers.
Remillard said the Carlsbad Municipal Water District
originally planned to read meters from fixed-base networks spread throughout the city, but decided to switch to a wireless approach to be more efficient. Now meter readers drive around the city, gathering data using wireless technology. The system can pick up signals from a half-mile away, so readers can cover large parts of the city with a simple driving route. The old meters required readers to stop and read every meter.
“We saved $8 million going to the new, drive-by technology,” Remillard said, “and we can switch to the fixed-base system later if we want.”
The new automated meters also provide useful information for customers who want to track their water use. The meters record results at regular intervals throughout the day, which allows staff to tell customers when a spike in usage may have begun, and what times of day usage increases.
“When customers ask, ‘Why is my bill so high, where did the water go,’ we can tell them if we see abnormalities on certain days and how much they used,” Remillard said. “We can give customers more information than we did in the past, and this helps them reduce the water they use and save money.”
Remillard said district representatives can pinpoint when a leak began without ever leaving the office, but when they visit a customer’s home they carry laptop computers that display a history of their water use.
Customers are notified when their meters are scheduled for replacement. Residents don’t need to be home for the replacement to occur, and water is usually shut off for about 30 minutes.
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