News Feature | June 29, 2022

California Utilities Turn To Smart Water Meters Amid Water Scarcity

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


The adoption of cutting-edge drinking water utility technology amid ongoing drought in California is demonstrating that necessity truly is the mother of invention.

The historic drinking water scarcity in the U.S. West has motivated systems to explore innovative cross-border partnerships and ambitious rainwater capture and reclamation projects. And now it is seeing California utilities innovate at the meter as well.

“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 targets and detect leaks,” according to Government Technology. “As California’s latest drought stretches into its third year, water supplies continue to tighten and state conservation rules increase, so a growing number of water agencies are deciding to upgrade.”

Though upgrading to smart meters can be an expensive endeavor, many utilities around the country have done so. A pilot project in San Jose has demonstrated that smart meters help consumers cut water use by an average of 7%, with leak duration falling by 38%, Government Technology reported.

“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 on the 230,000 water meters at homes and businesses in its service area,” per Government Technology. “Work on the $100 million project will begin in two years and will finish in 2026, with the average water bill going up about $5 a month to pay for it.”

Some have raised concerns around the technology, however, citing its costs and violations of privacy as flaws that aren’t shared by older metering technology. But moves toward almost any innovation that can help conserve drinking water seems all but inevitable in California at this point.

“Some experts say that as climate change continues to heat up the already arid West, nearly every city will have some smart water meters, which also can detect large leaks in distribution pipes and, in some cases, more easily locate people who are watering lawns over the limited number of days in droughts,” Government Technology reported.

To read more about how drinking water utilities track consumption, visit Water Online’s AMR, AMI, And Metering Solutions Center.