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California drought: ‘smart’ water meters coming to San Jose, other Bay Area cities

California drought: ‘smart’ water meters coming to San Jose, other Bay Area cities

tech innovation 2022

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You have a smartphone. Maybe a smartwatch. Or even a smart doorbell.

As California grapples with drought conditions in the coming months and years, millions of Bay Area residents may soon have a smart water meter.

Water meters—the unsightly brass devices that measure water use, sit in underground boxes near sidewalks outside most homes and businesses—have been around since the 1820s. But in many areas, utilities send out water bills every two months, or perhaps only once a month.

That means until residents move out, lift the heavy concrete lid and write down the numbers on their analog water meters, most people don’t realize that unless through an irrigation system, old pipes, or toilets. Most people don’t know until a major leak occurs. They are spending their bill by wasting thousands of gallons of water.

Instead smart meters send wireless signals in real time so residents and utilities can better track water use hourly, daily or weekly, making it easier to hit conservation goals and detect leaks.

“We’re trying to bring our customers from an ignorance-enjoyment mindset to a knowledge-power mindset,” said East Bay Municipal Utility District spokeswoman Nelsey Rodriguez. Contra Costa County.

San Francisco installed smart water meters during California’s last drought in 2014. They have them in Boston, Washington DC and New York City. But installing smart meters is expensive. Technology changes every year. Some utilities have been reluctant to take the plunge.

As California’s latest drought stretches into its third year, water supplies continue to tighten and state conservation regulations tighten, a growing number of water agencies are deciding to upgrade.

The San Jose Water Company, a private firm that provides water to 1 million people in San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, received final approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to install smart meter technology . 230,000 water meters in homes and businesses in its service area.

Company officials say work on the $100 million project will begin in two years and end in 2026, with the average water bill to be around $5 a month to pay for it.

The company ran a pilot project in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood and found that homes with the technology used an average of 7% water, and decreased the duration of leaks by 38%.

“It went well,” San Jose Water spokeswoman Liane Walborsky said. “The customers who were in the pilot really enjoyed that they were able to see their water use, and we saw results in conservation.”

To the east, the Alameda County Water District, which serves Fremont, Union City and Newark, is spending $41 million to upgrade its 86,500m by 2025. It has already eliminated 17,500, said spokesman Sharen Gonzales.

To the north, the Marin Municipal Water District is moving forward with plans to replace its 58,000 analog meters at a cost of $20 million to $25 million over three years.

And East Bay MUD has installed smart meter technology on nearly 19,000 homes and businesses. The District Board, based in Oakland, is due to decide in September whether to expand the program.

“Just about every utility I know has a full smart meter system, or is testing it, or is in the process of deploying it,” said Dave Wallenstein, an associate engineer at East Bay MUD.

The technology is not without controversy. When Pacific Gas & Electric installed smart gas and electricity meters in Northern California a decade ago, a small but vocal group of protesters opposed the idea. He raised concerns about privacy and potential health risks.

In 2011, the California Council on Science and Technology, which advises the state government on technology issues, concluded that radio frequency emissions from smart meters were within federal safety standards for cellphones and microwave ovens.

Nevertheless, most agencies, including PG&E, allow customers to opt-out. Walborsky said San Jose Water will do so when specific plans are finished and installation begins over the next two years.

Some experts say that for those who already closely track their electricity usage or watch their gas mileage in real time while driving, a smart water meter is another tool to “get out there.” Most systems like San Francisco allow people to log into a website and track their water usage. Some have smartphone apps. Some send text messages when there are massive spikes in water usage.

“I remember a project I was working on in the Coachella Valley, where someone had a really high water bill,” said Lone House, a veteran energy and water consultant who has worked in Arizona and California. “They got angry. The water company said, ‘You used too much water this particular week.’ They said, ‘Oh yes, we went on a trip and left the hose on.’ ,

On confidentiality, as part of its approval from state PUCs, San Jose Water and its contractors are required to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act and not transmit specific information such as customer names or bill payment status over wireless networks.

Some East Coast utilities have installed smart meters to cut labor costs. With a wireless signal sent directly from the meter, they no longer require employees to read the meter manually.

Some water experts say that as climate change is heating an already arid West, nearly every city will have smart water meters that can detect even large leaks in distribution pipes and, in some cases, more Can easily locate people who are watering the lawn. Limited number of days in drought.

“In a drought, a utility can either say, ‘You can never water your grass again,’ or you can say, ‘Here’s how much water you can use, you decide when you use it. and how do you use it,” House said. “It’s a double-edged sword. It may be a burden on the part of the government, or it may be enabling of customers. But given what California is facing, they have to do it.”

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Citation: California drought: ‘Smart’ water meters arriving in San Jose, other Bay Area cities (2022, June 22) Obtained June 22, 2022

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