News Feature | January 25, 2016

Smart Meters To Get 'Smarter' In Napa

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Napa, CA, already has smart meters, but the city is about to install equipment that is even more intelligent.

Already, two-third of water users in the city have smart meters. But officials have more ambitious plans, according to the Napa Valley Register.

“Radio units added to water meters over the past six years are only the first step in a long-term project to automate the collection of water consumption data, and eventually to let Napans instantly check their usage in their own households. Work on expanding the system is expected to last until at least 2018, according to Joy Eldredge, manager of the city Water Division.”

“About 16,000 of the city’s 25,200 water meters have been equipped with transmitters, she said recently. The add-ons, which measure about 5 inches, weigh 10 ounces and run on a 20-year lithium battery, allow Napa water staff to use computers to collect usage information wirelessly, while driving by a home or building, without manually inspecting a meter,” the report said.

What’s the point?

“The upgrade’s eventual goal is to create a constant flow of water-use records and tie that data seamlessly into the department’s computerized billing,” the report said.

Eldredge explained how the utility will roll out new features.

“The first phase is to get radio transmitters installed on each meter and from there, we’ll have the ability to take that data, store, harness it and inject that into the billing system,” Eldredge said. “Napa is evaluating billing software from various companies and should make its choice by April, she said.”

The next phase is for the Water Division to install transmitters to communicate water meter data to a central database. That would remove the need for the utility to send workers to drive by a property to collect data. Automating the system could take an additional two years.

The upgrade is beneficial for customers because it will help them detect broken pipes and leaks sooner, helping stabilize their water bills, according to the report.

Eldredge predicted that additional tracking data will help customers understand where they use the most water.

“People will become more aware of how much water they use for irrigation,” she said. “It’ll be like your PG&E [Pacific Gas and Electric Company] bill; the more information you have, the more you become conscious of your usage and the more diligent you can be if you choose to be so.”

Water meters are already making a difference in California as the drought drags on.

"Not surprisingly, cities say conservation has gone up after meters have gone in. By the end of 2014, a year after Fresno finished installing its meters, water consumption in the city had dropped by 27 percent from 2008, the year before the project began," Reuters reported, citing city spokesman Mark Standriff.

The Associated Press reported that Californians who “live in 10 water districts with the highest number of unmetered home or business all used more water each day than the state average.”

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s AMR, AMI And Metering Solutions Center.