The Orange Water and Sewer Authority is considering a new, $6 million meter reading technology that could provide more, accurate water usage information to employees and customers, officials said.
OWASA staff and its Board of Directors will hold three public meetings over the next month to provide information, answer questions and receive comments about the Advanced Metering Infrastructure system. The first meeting starts at 7 p.m. Thursday at Chapel Hill Town Hall.
The OWASA board could consider approving the switch to AMI technology at its March 24 meeting.
AMI technology would allow OWASA staff to read customers’ meters remotely and many times a day – instead of once a month – using small, battery-powered radio transmitters that send a signal via community-based antennae to OWASA’s computers.
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The utility’s employees now read about two-thirds of the 21,300 water meters in Chapel Hill and Carrboro by driving to neighborhoods and walking from meter to meter, officials said. The rest use mobile automatic meter reading (AMR) transmitters that can be read as workers drive by a location.
AMI technology eliminates the need to visit each house and the potential for human error, OWASA board member Barbara Foushee recently told the Orange County Board of Commissioners.
“The OWASA staff will have access to information that empowers them to proactively let customers know when their water-use patterns indicate a potential leak at the customer’s premises,” she said, “meaning the customer would know if they have a leak, instead of later when they get this huge bill.”
The data also can be posted online, she said, giving customers a better understanding of their water use and the potential for saving water and money.
A January feasibility study also found the technology could streamline up to 3,500 service connection requests each year.
Upgrading all of OWASA’s meters to AMR technology could take more than a decade, the study states. It could take six months to buy the system and at least another year to implement it, officials said. The annual operations and maintenance cost would be roughly $151,000.
An AMI system, the study found, could save OWASA about $325,000 a year.
The new technology is not expected to increase rates for OWASA customers, officials said, but would be funded with savings from operational improvements and by not continuing to upgrade the existing meter technology. Meter-reading employees would be reassigned, they said.
Orange Water and Sewer Authority officials will share information and listen to public comment about a planned move to Advanced Metering Infrastructure at three upcoming meetings:
▪ 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
▪ 6 p.m. March 10 in OWASA’s Community Room, 400 Jones Ferry Road
▪ 7 p.m. March 24 at Chapel Hill Town Hall
More information is available at www.owasa.org. Comments also can be submitted via email at email@example.com, by calling 919-968-4421 or by mail to OWASA, Attn: AMI Feedback, 400 Jones Ferry Road, Carrboro, NC 27510.