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Akron, Ohio, Takes First Steps Toward Smart Water Meters

Staff from the Public Service Department briefed city officials on the plan to replace the devices for all customers within the service area. The project is expected to cost about $35 million.

(TNS) — The city of Akron is taking the first steps to replace more than 80,000 water meters with digital devices that allow for more accurate billing and improve leak detection.

Public Service Department staff briefed City Council on Monday about the plan to request proposals from water meter manufacturers to install digital units between 2020 to 2022 for every residential, commercial and industrial customer in the municipal water system.

The current meters were installed between 2003 to 2005 and were expected to last 15 to 20 years, Water Supply Bureau Manager Jeff Bronowski told council members.

To explore new options, the water department began a pilot program two years ago that has installed automated meters for about 200 Akron water customers.

“It [the pilot program] has been very successful, so we decided that we are going to request for proposals from the qualified vendors who offer services and technology that are the latest and greatest in the meter industry,” Bronowski said.

The project is expected to cost about $35 million. Each meter replacement ranges from $80 to $160, plus a $65 digital transmitter. The city will advertise for bids on Aug. 3 and Aug. 10, and companies will submit proposals by Sept. 23, Bronowski said.

The meters currently measure water usage in increments of 100 cubic feet, which equals 748 gallons. New meters will measure in gallons, which is more precise and easier for customers to understand.

Customers will be able to go online and see their hourly gallon usage, which could be helpful for landlords, vacationers or caregivers of older residents. Real-time alerts can spare customers from unexpectedly large bills by letting them know when there has been increased water use.

The water department also can access contemporaneous information to help identify leaks or theft with more precision than the current system allows. Instead of issuing a boil warning for an entire block or neighborhood, the department could reach out only to customers who are affected.

A digital transmitter system means no more meter readers – or, rather, meter reader. Currently, a singular city of Akron employee travels around the city to perform “drive-by” meter readings.

The transmitters will eliminate the need for that job, but Water Meter Supervisor Jerome McCall said that employee will be assigned to monitor reports from the automated system.

©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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