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The City Journals

Phase One of New Remote Water Metering System Complete, Phase Two Funded

Nov 06, 2015 11:02AM ● By James Luke

By James Luke

In recent years the job of reading water meters had grown so much, with ongoing South Jordan population increases, that it took a city employee a full week each month to drive through every neighborhood in the city, collecting data from residential water meters. The transponders in the meter boxes could send data only within a radius of a few hundred yards, so the meter reader had to be in close physical proximity to get the reading, causing a lot of driving around town in the process.

“With the growth of the city it was necessary to add a second meter reader to handle all the meter reading,” Public Works Director Jason Rasmussen explained.

The city’s water manager, Ray Garrison, recommended looking at available technology for remote reading of water meters. They soon learned that the future is available now, with remote water metering.

Research involved learning about metering systems that have been adopted in dry cities like Tucson, Arizona, San Diego and Turlock, California, and even in conservation-conscious places like Olympia, Washington. The remote metering system can improve water conservation by increasing awareness of water usage patterns.

The education the department got in the potential of modern remote metering systems led to bigger changes than simply increasing the public works department’s budget to add another government employee in a truck circulating the city’s streets slowly for a week to get near enough to read every meter in the city. 

With new stronger transponders in each water meter box, and data collectors on towers strategically located within a radius of a few miles of each other, the system now remotely collects water meter readings to send to the city’s data servers every hour.

Beginning in September 2014, public works employees began installing phase one of South Jordan’s new remote water metering system. By June 2015, workers completed phase one, installing some 6,500 new transponders for all residential water meter boxes in the city west of 4000 West.

Phase one relies on nine data collectors located on poles around the area to gather and send usage data from meters in the neighborhood to the city every hour, allowing near real-time water use monitoring. The customer portal that is coming as the next feature provides South Jordan residents with an arsenal of useful tools for monitoring and budgeting water use.

On Sept. 15 the city council voted unanimously in favor of funding phase two of the project, with a $400,000 budget to convert all residential meter boxes and add data collection units between 4000 West and 2700 West, to be complete in April 2016. 

By expanding the remote metering system to all South Jordan residences by 2017, the city hopes to help residents realize water conservation goals, and to add to the leak detection tools that can help local households avoid the economic and ecological costs of water running down the drain.

Rasmussen points to recent data showing that customers reduce water use by 2.8 percent when provided with detailed consumption data. With the customer portal as part of the new metering system, South Jordan residents will help to take control of their water usage decisions.

The remote metering system also helps to manage conservation by providing alerts to excessive water use in a household. Awareness of water usage patterns is key to careful customer use, as water department records indicate a 15-20% decline in water use after customers receive a water usage audit, which includes a sprinkler system efficiency check and review of indoor systems for low-flow fixture usage and undetected leaks.

Remote metering, with its near real time usage data, tells water users of undetected leaks, often in the toilet tank. When the system shows a nearly constant low flow of water going through a meter at all hours of the day, it will send an alert.

In its first six months the remote metering system helped to alert the water department to 252 residential leaks. The otherwise unnoticed constant flow represents water, and ultimately the customer’s money, going down the toilet.

With the new system the water department is able to handle water meter read requests more efficiently as well, serving customers better with less stress on water department staff. Whether for move-in water meter reads, a re-read, or a final read on closing an account, city employees are able to help customers get the right answers quicker with the remote metering system.   λ