The Coast News Group
Among the reasons the San Dieguito Water District is proposing a rate increase: infrastructure upgrades, including for the R.E. Badger Filtration Plant, which treats water for the district. Image courtesy of San Dieguito Water District

Water district to upgrade automated meter system

ENCINITAS — To maintain the efficiency of the nearly 12,000 potable automated water meters in its water system network, the San Dieguito Water District is buying new water meters to replace inventory, and installing new meters for upgrades and development.

The purchase was approved at the district’s Aug. 21 meeting. They can buy $100,000 of inventory for the next two years for a total of $200,000. So far, over the past four fiscal years of this contract, the district has already spent $317,000 on new meters. The board recently approved another $100,000 for an advanced metering infrastructure pilot program for recycled water, which brings the total contract to $617,000.

The meters and registers are manufactured by Badger and purchased from National Meter and Automation, which offers water utility products across the United States. The products come with a 20-year warranty and up to 10 years full replacement.

The district maintains over 11,700 potable automated water meters. Carl Quiram, director of public works in Encinitas, said the meters measure the amount of water passing from the district’s system into a specific home. He said the district pre-buys truck-loads of the meters at a time and are then reimbursed when a homeowner or private developer buys them.

“We supply the water meters that communicate with our billing systems when people are building or remodeling their home,” Quiram said. “The meter reads are the basis for the rate payers bill to ensure everyone is billed for the amount of water they use, fairly distributing our costs.”

According to a district agenda report, meter replacements are purchased through an inventory replenishment or asset account. In some cases, the meter is paid for by a new customer and the funds are added to revenue accounts. In other cases, the meter or register is a replacement for a meter or register that has reached the end of its useful life.

Quiram says the meters get replaced when the district questions their accuracy and they typically last about 16 years.

He says the Badger meters were selected through a bid sometime around 2003, when the meters were updated to switch to Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology. The AMR system uses drive-by technology, where a district vehicle is equipped with a laptop computer that picks up a signal sent from each water meter. The data is then downloaded into the district’s utility billing software so that a water bill for each account can be generated.

“AMR allows us to read from a passing truck without having to open each meter box,” Quiram said.

While the potable water meters will remain an AMR system, with the recently approved advanced metering infrastructure pilot program for recycled water, the district will move away from the AMR system and into an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system, in which the signal from each water meter is transmitted directly to the district office. The district receives real-time water use data, which will allow employees to find potential leaks from a customer’s water system remotely.

According to a district agenda report in June about the AMI pilot program for recycled water, the program would provide the information needed to plan for the eventual conversion of the district’s potable water meters to AMI.

The San Dieguito Water District provides potable (drinking) and recycled water to over 37,000 citizens in the communities of Leucadia, Old Encinitas, Cardiff, and portions of New Encinitas. The remainder of the City is served by the Olivenhain Municipal Water District.