|AUTOMATIC METER READING (AMR) PROJECT|
WHO & WHAT?
The Clear Lake City Water Authority has decided to replace the water meters with an automatic meter reading system. CLCWA Board of Directors approved the meter project in the Fall of 2012. In the Summer of 2013 CLCWA is now ready to kick off the project. Currently all 18,000+ meters are each read manually by field crews. It is a time consuming process that can be improved with meter reads sent automatically to the billing office, thus freeing up field crews to focus on maintenance and repairs. Most of the meters within the District are past their 20 year recommended life span and would have to be changed out anyway. The CLCWA Staff took the opportunity to find more innovative ways to utilize technology and make the process more efficient and economical.
It should be noted that Automatic Meter Reading is not the same as the SMART Meters. The information collected from CLCWAs Automatic Meter Reading system is no different than having a water meter manually read on your property. It does not track what the water was used for or who used it, just simply that it registered through the meter.
WHEN & WHERE?
CLCWA is scheduling this meter change out program over the course of 18 months in three phases. The First Phase will comprise of the radio infrastructure installation, all commercial meters changed out or retrofitted, and changing out the first of the residential meters. Phases Two and Three will be all residential. The order of the residential areas is determined by the age of the meters (replacing the oldest areas first) and by meter reading route. You will be notified before your phase begins, and again when your subdivision area is narrowed down to a specific week.
National Metering Service, Inc. has been contracted to help with this endeavor. Criminal history checks are done on all National Metering Service, Inc. employees. They are also easily identifiable in a professional service uniform and carry company-issued photo identification.
Typically a meter installation should take 15-30 minutes. Your water service will temporarily be unavailable during this minimal disruption. A National Metering Service, Inc. employee will change out the old meter in most cases, and the meter box top will be replaced with a new one. Some of the newer meters we anticipate to be retrofitted. The meter will be tested and confirmed to assure the meter is communicating with the system. You may be asked to verify some account information. The old meters will be recycled to help off-set the project cost.
The top of the meter box has a silver colored round disc. This is the antenna. Meter reads are sent from the meter box antenna over a wireless system to a transmitter tower. Then the transmitter tower sends the information to the main billing office.
The meter read is uploaded in to the billing program. Each meter is uniquely identified by a serial number that corresponds with the residents account. After the new meter installation, the National Metering Service, Inc. employee will notify you if you are home, or leave a blue card on your front door. The blue card states the date your meter is changed out and will ask you to flush your water system by turning on all the faucets for one minute or until it runs clear. This is a good opportunity fill some containers or buckets and water thirsty plants inside and outside.
There are numerous advantages to implementing the AMR system. One of the biggest benefits will be the possibility of earlier leak detection. Since meter reads are sent more often than once every 60 days, the probability of finding a leak sooner is much greater. Residents with usage that is abnormally higher than their historical usage will be flagged and the customer service department can notify customers sooner that there may be a leak on their property. Meters that malfunction will also be flagged so a field technician can be sent out to assess the issue.
Other benefits of automatic meter reading include more accurate and efficient meter reading, and a reduced strain on the meter reading personnel, who can now be better utilized on repair and maintenance crews. With the antiquated meter reading system, about 800 residential meters are read in one day per crew of two employees. With a total of 10 meter readers it takes about 5-7 days to read all the meters, depending on rain delays. Sometimes the meter boxes fill up with water and they have to be bailed out before the meter can be read. The meter readers are pulled from repair crews, thus leaving the repair crews very understaffed, sometimes non-existent, and causing increased overtime costs. There is less exposure to employees on dangerous high traffic routes or roaming animals. The meter boxes sometimes have snakes, spiders, ants, and other dangerous critters housing in the box. Gasoline consumption and vehicle wear and tear is expected to decrease. Employees will be able to staff repair crews full-time which is critical during droughts when the most line breaks occur. Any additional employees not on a repair crew are needed on a maintenance crew.
The AMR system will reduce the amount of water loss from theft. We all end up paying for water theft. If a meter is supposed to be disconnected and it starts to show water usage, the computer system will flag that meter, thus triggering someone to go investigate.
Security has been carefully considered and analyzed, and the benefits outweigh the risks. The information collected from the AMR system is no different than a meter reader stopping by to manually read the meter. The AMR system cannot tell what you are using water for, only that it was used.
CLCWA Staff and Directors have carefully considered the pros and cons, evaluated different types of systems, and thoroughly looked in to several surrounding cities in the area that have converted over to the AMR system. CLCWA Staff and Directors are confident this will be a highly successful program and are excited about the opportunity to make the CLCWA utility system more robust and efficient.
You can download a printer friendly .pdf of this information here. Please contact us if you have any questions, 281-488-1164.