Etowah Water and Sewer Authority has begun a water meter replacement project with the goal of improving the accuracy of meter readings for its 5,200 commercial and residential customers.
The new water meters have already been installed at 50 residential locations, including the homes of each member of the authority's board of directors.
According to General Manager Brooke Anderson, the new meter system will allow the water authority to improve water conservation efforts and customer service.
"We will be running a continuous reading report, which means that if a volume of water has been moving through a meter for 24 hours straight, we will e-mail or call the customer and inform them of that," Anderson said. "There may be a legitimate reason that the meter has been running and the customer may already be aware of that, but it may just be that a toilet or something of that nature needs to be fixed."
Anderson believes that the new program will allow both the company and its customers to prevent the unnecessary usage of water and improve conservation efforts.
The new system will also allow the authority to improve up-to-date readings of the meters.
Under the old system, meters were read once a month, either by a physical or drive-by reading.
Anderson said that more than half of the older meters require physical readings.
"But with the new system, we will be taking one reading per hour every day," Anderson said. "That will allow us to improve our customer service."
Each meter will send a signal every hour to a receiving antenna. A computer on site will then send the signal along an Internet connection to the authority's main office.
Anderson said if a customer receives a water bill that is higher than normal, the customer can call and discover exactly how much water was used on a specific day.
"With life being so busy, there are times when everyone forgets doing something, such as filling up a swimming pool," Anderson said. "So the customer can call and we can tell them that on a specific day and time, a large quantity of water was used, and then they may remember a project that required a large amount of water.
"And that helps us bring peace of mind to our customers, which is what we really strive to do," he said.
In addition to monitoring for continuous use, the new system will allow the meters to read a smaller volume of water being used.
According to Anderson, the old meters registered usage at 0.13 gallons per minutes, while the new meters register 0.03 gallons per minute.
The replacement project is now on hold as the authority evaluates the functionality of the 50 meters already in place.
Anderson said the project will be held for 30 to 60 days for evaluation, but that initial reports have been positive.
"We hope to have the project completed in all residential areas by January or February of (2012)," Anderson said.
According to Anderson, the meters only take a few minutes to be replaced. For that period, the water to the home will have to be shut off.
"But we will be notifying the customer in advance when we will be coming out to replace their meter, so they can call us if there are any specific problems with that time," Anderson said. "Most of the replacements will be done during the day when customers are at work or school, so we are hoping that the impact will be slight and that the customers won't even know that we've been there."