By Ed Hackney, Director of Revenue Management, United Water
Water is relatively inexpensive in the context of your overall household budget. On average, the cost of water is less than a penny a gallon. That makes it all too easy to waste.
Right now, in your basement or in your backyard, there’s that one spigot that won’t completely shut off. And you’re paying more for water service than you have to as a result.
If that sounds familiar, you don’t live in Bayonne, NJ, where United Water has installed over 11,000 new and smarter meters for 95 percent of the city’s residents and businesses. High-resolution Sensus SRII meters and Aclara endpoints enable meter data to be constantly gathered by several collectors on poles and rooftops throughout the city. Data is then transmitted to United Water servers for calculation and consumption reports.
The data and consumption reports enable our dedicated customer service team to show and tell homeowners and the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority (BMUA) exactly how much water they’re using and automatically detect if their usage appears to be abnormal.
With real-time data from the new advanced meters, United Water can detect water leaks or anomalies and quickly inform the customer of the need to take action to prevent a bill spike or worse — property damage that may result from a broken pipe.
Meter readers no longer have to walk from door to door resulting in an increased sense of security for homeowners — and United Water, as a company, no longer has to inconvenience homeowners who would otherwise have to wait at home for a meter-reading appointment.
Indeed, Bayonne residents have already benefited from the increased information about their water consumption and underground piping that the new meters provide.
In one instance, a United Water customer service supervisor had contacted a resident regarding a possible leak that he was able to identify utilizing the new smart meter technology. Employees then went to the customer’s home and identified and repaired the leak, likely saving her money on her next bill. The customer was thrilled with the immediate response and the way the situation was handled.
In the past it would take 90 days or more — the length of the billing cycle — before patterns of wasted water might surface. Now, United Water runs daily consumption reports and sends out letters or makes phone calls to customers if their usage seems abnormally high. So far, 800 customers have been alerted about leaks.
The program to enhance the intelligence of Bayonne’s meters is one of many infrastructure investment projects United Water is undertaking in partnership with the BMUA as it operates the municipal system over the next 40 years and oversees $157 million in investment.
Beyond Bayonne, United Water is actively deploying AMI in service areas across the country as part of a $1-billion investment in its infrastructure assets over the next five years. Similarly high levels of investment are available to those cities and towns who choose to partner with United Water, leveraging private capital to meet their investment needs.