Is there truly ever a time that we enjoy opening bills? I can’t think of any, except when maybe I’ve just paid off a credit card and am very happy to see the zero balance! Who wouldn’t enjoy knowing you owe no money that month!?!? I would love it!
Well, when the opposite happens–opening a bill you thought would be small, but was very high—that can cause a lot of unhappy feelings, stress, anger, confusion—what happened? Why is this so high? Why didn’t I know? Enter applicable emoji faces here. Ha!
The City is trying to prevent that negative reaction from happening when you open up your water bill each month. Thanks to the new automated water meters that the Utility Department has installed over the last several years, we can now let you know if you’ve had water running through your water meter without stopping for over 24 hours! Pretty cool!
Here’s a little history on these new meters: Back in 2009, we began upgrading the meters from a traditional meter that is read each month (and only once per month) by actual persons that walk the town, street by street, opening up meter boxes to write down that month’s number. That was pretty inefficient, but the standard practice in the water metering world. Those new meters installed starting in 2009 were called AMR (automatic meter reading), as a person didn’t have to walk all day and open up these boxes. Now we could read the meters from the comfort of a car, with this drive-by system, as the meter reads would automatically be uploaded into the computer in the car with the now-mobile meter reader. This allowed the city to read meters much faster, find meters that weren’t working quicker, prevent mistakes made when manually reading the meter, and provide more water data and information to you (our water customers) about when water is being used at your property. (You may have seen some of the cool water use graphs we can now access.)
Moving forward, starting in 2015, we upgraded the meters again, moving to an even more automated system where now we don’t even need to drive-by to get the monthly meter reads. Now, the meters send their reads twice a day to our billing software infrastructure. This makes us even more efficient in removing vehicles off the road (helping with air quality, saving fuel costs), knowing nearly immediately when meters stop working, having quicker access to water use to help answer questions about why bills may be high, and again, (we’re coming full circle now) let you know if you have a leak registering on your water meter.
We receive an alert from the meter if water has been flowing for more than 24-hours without stopping. So, rather than finding out a month or so later (when the bill comes in the mail AND you’ve actually opened it), you now may find out within a week that you have some kind of odd water use. You can start checking things out at your house to prevent that shocked when opening the bill experience! Maybe it’s an easy-to-prevent toilet leak, a water hose left running, a swimming pool fill stuck open, or unfortunately something worse, but we want you to know about it as soon as possible to prevent damage, save money, and save water!
The leak alerts will primarily be sent in the mail as a postcard, but may be a doorhanger, or an email. We aren’t able to say what specifically is causing the constant water use, we can only tell you that water is being used continuously at your house. Hopefully before the end of this year, you’ll also be able to receive this alert as a text message. More on that coming soon!
Starting this leak alert notification is just another way we are striving to save water as a community and provide the best customer service we can, to you! I really hope you never get one sent to you—no one wants a leak! But if you do, you’re welcome!