News Feature | July 18, 2017

After Bill Shock, Water Utility Defends Meter Upgrade

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Can a water meter upgrade mean higher bills for customers?

A district that serves 16,000 customers in Florida’s Coral Springs and Parkland conducted an audit when it received overbilling complaints following a meter overhaul, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The audit found the meters are accurate.

“The North Springs Improvement District commissioned the audit at the request of a county commissioner who was getting hundreds of complaints from residents of skyrocketing bills, often by hundreds of dollars,” the report said.

Rod Colon, the district's deputy director, weighed in at the time the audit was commissioned, per the Sun-Sentinel: “We want to restore public confidence, and we’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “We’re a government agency, and we want them to be proud of us.”

The utility replaced 14,000 water meters over a year ago, which is around the same time the complaints began.

Now, in the aftermath of the audit, officials are suggesting that customers simply are not used to accurate meters.

“The old meters stopped working properly, resulting in customers using more water than what the meters showed, he said. As a result, the district lost years of revenue because water usage wasn’t being accurately recorded,” the report said.

Colon said residents “have to get use to accurate meters. Every utility has been through the same shock” when meters are changed, he said.

The water industry been slow to embrace smart technology and data, according to a report by consultants at Black & Veatch

Security is one reason, the new report said. “Some utilities are unwilling to embrace cloud computing — where analytics can really flex its muscle by quickly collating, processing and presenting massive amounts of data — because of security concerns,” the report said.

A lack of trust in automated processes is another reason. “Managers may also fear that data analytics and other automation technology could ultimately reduce the labor force and at least partly remove human intuitive decision-making from the operational equation,” it continued.

To read more about meter overhauls visit Water Online’s AMR, AMI And Metering Solutions Center.