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Smart Water Meters to be Installed in Bloomington

City of Bloomington Utilities is preparing to install a Smart Water Meter system for our customers’ homes and businesses throughout our entire service area. This initiative is in response to our continuing efforts to provide our customers with the lowest cost of water while maintaining a high level of reliability and great customer service. A more modernized metering system will enable automated readings and will enhance our ability to respond to infrastructure issues more efficiently. Plus, you will have access to more detailed water usage information allowing you to make informed decisions on how to manage your water consumption and alert you to potential leaks. There will be no new rate increases or surcharges as a result of this project.

See video below:

Smart Water Meter Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions to help learn more about why we are making this change and how the technology can benefit you.

 

Why is the City of Bloomington Utilities installing Smart Water Meters? Roughly 30% of the City’s water meters are read with a radio; the other 70% are manually read.

The current meter reading program faces the following challenges:

  • The existing meter reading system does not allow for timely detection of water leaks. Leaks that go unnoticed can cause expensive water bills and/or property damage.

  • Many of the existing water meters are approaching the end of their useful life and need to be replaced.

  • Manually reading water meters is physically demanding on CBU employees and requires a fleet of trucks on the roads daily.

Smart water meters address all of these challenges.

 

What are Smart Water Meters and how do they work? Smart Water Meters collect water use information just as the manual reading meters do. The fundamental advantage is they wirelessly transmit customer water usage every hour to CBU via base stations. CBU employees will no longer need to visit homes and businesses to manually record information every month.

 

Why is there a hole in my water meter lid?  Utility Metering Solutions (UMS) is out and about prepping meter pits and lids for the new smart water meters. They use their laser cutter trailer to make a hole in the lid which is where the antenna will sit. The antenna is waterproof, durable enough for someone to step on, and low-profile so you can mow over it.

 

When will my meter be upgraded to a Smart Water Meter? The City of Bloomington Utilities expects meter installations to take place beginning in July 2019, with the effort concluding in mid-2020. See a map of where replacement work is occurring here.

 

Who is authorized to change my meter? CBU has contracted with Utility Metering Solutions (UMS) to conduct this service. Each technician will be driving vehicles marked with the UMS logo, will be wearing a bright yellow shirt or vest identifying the technician as a member of the UMS installation team, and will be carrying appropriate identification. All technicians have successfully completed a comprehensive criminal background check.

 

What can I expect when my Smart Water Meter is installed? For most customers, the impacts from installation will be minimal because the meter pit is in the yard near the street. Replacing the water meter requires only a short interruption to water service, usually less than 15 minutes. A UMS technician finds the meter pit, ensures the residents are not currently running water, then knocks on your door prior to the installation to let you know that they will be installing your water meter. In some cases, the technician will need to make repairs to the meter pit but in most cases, those repairs will not delay water service restoration.

After installation and testing, the technician will leave a door tag letting you know your meter has been changed. You may need to run COLD water for a few minutes if there is any discoloration of your tap water. Contact information will be provided on the door tag if you have any follow-up questions or concerns.

 

What if my water meter is located indoors? About 250 of CBU's 26,000 meters are located indoors. For those customers, an appointment will be scheduled at your convenience to allow the technician to access the meter. An adult is required to be present during the installation. Customers with indoor meters should expect a letter with instructions on how to make an appointment.

 

How can Smart Water Meters save money? A Smart Water Meter makes it easier for CBU to identify a leak and let the affected customer know about it much more quickly than was possible with manual meter reading. With manual meter reading, leaks could go undetected for weeks, leaving customers responsible for paying expensive bills and/or resulting in property damage. Smart Water Meters also make it easier for customers to track results of water conservation efforts. 

 

Will CBU customers be able to see their water usage online? Yes. Utilizing an online portal, CBU customers will have the ability to view how much water they are using daily. They will also be able to use this online portal to make adjustments in their water use habits as needed to save money. This portal will become available in 2020.

 

What will my water consumption data be used for? Beyond billing and leak detection, the City of Bloomington Utilities will only use water consumption data to plan, maintain, and develop the city water system. Smart water meters will help the utility maintain a potable water system that is flexible, reliable, and able to meet customers’ needs.

 

How will the City of Bloomington Utilities protect my privacy? The City of Bloomington Utilities is committed to protecting the information of its customers. Smart Meters cannot be used as surveillance devices. Only the meter number, the amount of water used, and information about the proper functioning of the equipment is tallied and sent through the wireless network.   Personal information such as name, address, or account number is not stored in the smart water meter nor is it sent through the wireless network. The meter cannot read how many people used water, the types of fixtures using water, or whether the water went down into the drain into the sanitary sewer.

Additionally, technicians will not enter your home (unless you have a scheduled appointment for an inside meter), obtain your identification information, or have access to your online account.

 

Will my water-use information be secure? The smart water meter wireless network will have multiple layers of protection, similar to many online transactions. All transmitted information will be secure and protected through encryption within the network.

 

How much will this new system cost customers? How is it being paid for? There will be no new rate increases or surcharges as a result of this project. It is being funded with proceeds from a water rate increase that took effect in 2016.

The cost of the new smart water meter system is expected to be approximately $9 million. CBU anticipates recovering some of the costs of this investment over time. That’s because in addition to the benefits of early leak detection, the utility expects to see greater operational efficiencies.

 

Because meter readers will no longer be required to visit homes and businesses to record information manually every month, how will this impact their employment with the City of Bloomington Utilities? None of the current six full-time meter reader positions will be eliminated as a result of this program. The new job responsibilities of these CBU employees will include routine meter pit and water meter maintenance, fire hydrant flushing, and other duties to maintain our water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

 

Will Smart Water Meters cause my water bill to increase? Each new meter is tested and guaranteed to accurately record water consumption. All water meters ensure that our customers are billed for the water they use, but some of the oldest meters in the system may be slightly under recording a customer's water usage. If a customer’s old meter was under-recording, then that customer might see a bill increase with the new meter.

If you are concerned about an increase you see in your water bill, please contact our customer service department at utilities.cs@bloomington.in.gov so that we may address your concerns.

 

Are Smart Water Meters safe? Smart water meters communicate information similarly to other common wireless devices such as baby monitors, garage door openers, WiFi routers, and cell phones. However, smart water meters transmit at lower levels than most of these devices, are located farther away – typically outside the home, near the street – and only transmit consumption data for less than one second per day. All told, the result is much lower radio frequency exposure than from many common appliances and personal electronics that customers use in their homes throughout the day.  

 

How will Smart Water Meters benefit the environment? Smart water meters equals fewer meter-reading vehicles on the road, thus reducing the City of Bloomington Utilities’ carbon footprint. They will also reduce the amount of water loss, reducing the amount of water CBU needs to treat.

 

Where can I learn more about Smart Water Meters? Please check out our facebook page for updates and we also invite you to contact us if you would like more information at utilities.cs@bloomington.in.gov or (812) 349-3930.