This fall, the City of Lenoir will start a project to upgrade all the water meters in the city and improve the city's meter reading system.
The City will replace all the old water meters with new, highly-accurate smart meters. These smart meters will send usage data to City Hall through a wireless network. This technology is known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).
Public Utilities Director Radford Thomas said this project will provide upgrades to City water system, improve operations, and provide better customer service.
"Our goal is to maintain a healthy water system, improve the system when possible, and provide excellent customer service," Thomas said. "This AMI project will meet all those goals.”
A couple years ago, Thomas decided bring in a consultant to evaluate the City’s water system and look for improvements. The City hired MeterSys, an industry-leading metering firm out of Raleigh, to analyze the benefit of switching to advance metering technology. City staff wanted to know if AMI was practical or whether it would be better to continue with the old system. The analysis determined that AMI would provide significant improvements to operations and customer service.
"The advanced meters and network will provide more information and better tools for customers and staff," Thomas said. "We'll be able to detect leaks sooner. Staff will be able to turn water service on and off from City Hall. We'll also be able to provide more information to customers who have questions or concerns about their bill."
Currently, the City uses a combination of manual-read and drive-by-read water meters. City staff reads the meters once a month, and it's up to homeowners to look for leaks or figure out why their water use may have increased.
The new AMI system will use smart meters that can send usage data through a wireless network to City Hall. The smart meters will send data once an hour. A new software system will keep track of usage and averages for each customer. The data sent to City Hall is secure and does not contain a customer's personal information.
City staff and customers will be able to review detailed water use by the hour. Those details can help determine why a bill may be higher than normal one month. The new meters will be much more accurate and will be able to detect smaller flows of water, which can help customers detect possible leaks. The system will be able to detect sudden increases in water use, which can be a sign of a water line break, and send an alert to staff and residents.
“It’s going to be a much better system for the City and for customers,” Thomas said. “From an operations standpoint, we’ll be much more efficient. We’ll be better able to keep track of the water we’re producing and make sure we’re not wasting or losing water. Customers will be better able to track their usage as well.”
Once a majority of the new meters are installed, customers will be able to access an online portal with the detailed usage information. Residents will be able to view their consumption and sign up for various alerts, such as leak alerts and high usage alerts.
The AMI project will take a little more than a year to complete. Contractors will start replacing meters this November and should have all the new meters installed by next fall. The Customer Portal will go live next year as well. Staff expects to wrap up the project by February 2021.
For more information and to follow updates on the project, visit www.cityoflenoir.com/watermeterupgrade.