New Water Meters Can Tell If Leaks Are Present

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by Valerie Garner

High technology is coming to Roanoke City and county homes and businesses. Electronic water meters will talk but hopefully not to you. The new electronic water meters will communicate with a tower and a computer that will analyze your homes water usage.

A $32 million dollar meter project by the Virginia Western Water Authority in conjunction with Honeywell will improve water loss, save energy and reduce operating cost, said Gary Robertson, Executive Director of Water Operations. Customers would know “almost immediately” when they had a leak versus waiting 60 days for their meter to be read by field personnel, said Robertson.

The presentation to city council Monday outlined how all this would be accomplished. Customers need to be aware that crews will be out replacing existing water meters over the next 18-24 months. The electronic meters have a 20-year guarantee said Robertson.

The electronic meters will transmit data to communication towers than to network servers. This will eliminate manual meter reading and free-up resources in the city and county.

Robertson estimated that 10 percent of water is lost through undetected leaks. Honeywell guarantees that to be reduced to a maximum of 2 percent. Robertson though thinks it is more than likely it will be zero percent water loss.

Zone meters will monitor the flow in and out of defined service areas and will also be able to detect water pipes needing maintenance or replacement.

The project also entails installing high efficiency water pumping systems at pump stations and treatment plants. This will reduce energy consumption and save an estimated $500,000 a year.

Water Authority crews will perform some of the installation to save money. The project is expected to pay for itself through the savings that Robertson expects to top over $1 million annually. Local labor will be used to install the 10,000 meters thereby creating 50 new jobs.

Eventually customers will be able to monitor their water consumption online through a separate Customer Information System project that will be installed concurrently with the meter project.