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NPR switching to wireless water-meter reading


New Port Richey City Council members have decided it’s time to bring water meters into the 21st century.

The city will spend up to $1.56 million on the first phase of installing the high-tech meters that offer real- time feedback for both utility customers and staff members.

About half of more than 10,000 customers will get the new devices in the months ahead, Assistant Public Works Director Sherman B. Applegate told city council.

The city will dispense with meter readers once the wireless meter reading upgrades are done, for annual savings of about $77,000.

The electronic meters will talk with the billing software the city is installing. Online pay-ments will become an option.

Customers will gain the ability for customized views that show water usage by day, week or month, Applegate said. The technology allows a customer to set an alert once water consumption reaches a certain level each month.

City staff will gain real-time leak detection capabilities, rather than waiting for a customer to complain about a very high bill to discover a problem.

Staff also can receive notifications if a customer is violating irrigation restrictions. Alerts can indicate theft of service if a meter registers water flow from an account that is closed.

Asked about security of the information, Applegate assured officials that customers must enter proper credentials to see the data. Websites employ encryption as well to stymie hackers.

City council already set aside money for the meter upgrades in a long-term capital improvement fund, so they voted to proceed.

HD Supply Waterworks will install the Advanced Metering Infrastructure sys- tem, according to a city memo. The AMI project includes meter register retrofits, transmitter installations, meter box and lid replacements where needed, one base station, programming and diagnostic equipment, and meter date management software.

The first phase could conclude within six months, Applegate said. The second phase should begin in fiscal 2015, which starts Oct. 1.