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City of Longview working to install new water meters

By Richard Yeakley
Sept. 9, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Longview city workers are about a third of the way through installing digital water meters that transmit usage readings to a vehicle as it drives down the roadway.

Director of Public Works Keith Bonds said crews have installed about 10,000 Master Meter 3G Mobile automatic meter reader. The city has about 28,000 residential water customers.

<h3>10-year life span</h3>

The city replaces meters on a 10-year cycle. They started three years ago replacing manually-read meters with digital ones.

"We will be doing this 6 or 7 more years, and then we will continue to change out about 3,000 meters a year, forever," Bonds said.

They're more expensive to install - costing $238 for a radio-read meter versus $129 to install a manually read meter.

<h3>Efficiency</h3>

The higher cost is offset by greater efficiency.

"If there is a receiver in the vehicle that is driving by, he (the meter reader) will receive the information on all of the meters," Bonds said.

When the city of White Oak improved the installation of similar meters in 2010, then-Public Works Director Mike Self estimated the new meters would let the city serve 500 customers in about an hour, a task that previously took nearly eight hours.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said there are not plans to reduce personnel. Instead, the efficiency will allow staff members more time to work on other projects - like maintenance - in addition to reading meters.

The new meters are also better able to track leaks. When data is sent, it will show if a consistent volume of water has been flowing from the pipe for an 18-hour period, an indication that city water crews may be needed.

Mary Schroer, who lives in the 2300 block of Oliver Avenue, was unaware the city had changed out her meter early this summer for a new digital meter, but said it would be nice that workers wouldn't have to come on her property.

But Schroer's neighbor, Frances Martin, who said she saw crews install the new meter, found comfort that crews had to manually read the meter.

"I would rather know they read it than wonder if they guessed," Martin said.

<h3>Increased accuracy</h3>

One sticking point for the meters was the increased accuracy that members of the public works department believe they will see in the counts.

Hara said that when the old meters aren't accurate it is usually in favor of the user, but that doesn't happen often, he said.

"Most of them were registering fairly accurately, and those that were off are between 2 to 5 percent," Bonds said.

Bonds said that due to the large difference in water usage in the last three years, from the drought of 2011, a relatively normal year last year, and drought-like conditions this year, it was impossible to tell if the city was making more money through the installation of more accurate meters.

"I would say no (we haven't seen an increase), because water sales change every month," Bonds said. "We can't tell that we are doing any better or worse."

Neither Schroer and Martin said they noticed a difference on their monthly bill after the installation of the digital meters; however, White Oak's Charlie Smith said, seeing an increase is possible.

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