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New meters saving customers money and water

CARLSBAD — New water meters that report consumption automatically and help detect leaks are already saving the Carlsbad Municipal Water District’s customers water and money.
The new technology means that district personnel no longer drive to each home and business to read a meter, but can log onto their computers to read the data anytime.
The meters have been installed in the Palomar Airport commercial and industrial area, and in the city’s southeast neighborhoods, which include the La Costa, Carrillo Ranch and La Costa Greens areas. The district will begin installing the new meters in Aviara neighborhoods in September.
Mario Remillard, who supervises meters, customer service and conservation for the water district, said the new technology has proven valuable by reducing the time it takes to read the meters, and by helping identify leaks and excess water use.
“If a customer calls in with a concern regarding a high water bill, we can check the computer to determine if they have a possible leak even before going out to the property,” Remillard said.
In the past, someone had to spot evidence of excess water use, or notice an unexpected spike in the monthly billings. The new meters record use at specific times of day.
Remillard said this new technology paid off for a Rancho Carrillo resident who called the district about his high water bill. A meter services representative checked the computer and determined that the resident’s automatic sprinklers were activating every day at the same time.
“The customer wasn’t aware of this, thinking that the sprinklers were set to only come on three days a week,” Remillard said. “In his situation there had been a power outage the previous month and that switched the timer to run the sprinklers every day.”
The customer adjusted his timer, saving him approximately 9,000 gallons of water and $32.40 a month, Remillard said. And the district solved the problem without ever visiting the resident’s property.
Remillard said if a district representative needs to visit a customer’s home, he or she carries a laptop computer and logs onto the network, to show the customer a history of their water use.
The automated water meter network also serves as a water-conservation tool by continually running a function that searches for potential leaks. The network flagged unusual water use in a vacant building, and found a stuck valve in a third-floor toilet.
The automatic meter detection saved $4,572.48 a month for the water.
In the Palomar Airport industrial area, the new technology is saving 20 hours of overtime a month. And the district is installing new software to directly merge the meter data with the billing system, which is expected to save an estimated 52 staff hours a month. The software installation is scheduled for completion in June.
The water district has installed 5,302 meters, of 28,300 districtwide, at a cost of nearly $2 million. The changeover began in 2008 and is planned for completion 2023.