You may have seen them: The small discs protruding from the tops of water meter boxes around Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. They are the antennas for “Smart Meters” being installed throughout the Water Authority’s service area. A recent news report about them can be found on Channel 4's website.
What is a “Smart Meter” and how does it work?
Smart Meters eliminate the need for human meter readers by electronically transmitting water use data directly from the meter to the utility. Smart Meter technology is sometimes referred to as “AMI” (advanced metering infrastructure).
What are the advantages of Smart Meters?
Smart Meters allow greater efficiency because they provide more accurate and timely data measurement. Meter malfunctions can be addressed more quickly, reducing the need to base bills on estimated usage. Meanwhile, vehicle emissions are reduced – along with workers’ exposure to safety hazards in the field. Eventually, we expect that Smart Meters will allow customers to monitor their own water usage via an online Customer Portal.
How much do Smart Meters cost?
The Water Authority is spending about $2 million per year on Smart Meter installation. Total project cost is expected to be about $20 million over 10 years.
Do I need to do anything differently if a Smart Meter is installed at my house?
No; customers can continue to use water and pay their bills as they have in the past. No other action is necessary. Like the old meters, the new ones are Water Authority property and should not be tampered with. Customers can still read their own meters (they have dials, just like the old-fashioned ones) if they wish, or if they want to check for house-side leaks.
How many Smart Meters have been installed?
Since 2011, the Water Authority has installed about 72,000 Smart Meters for residential and non-residential customers. Installation is occurring in phases and is about 35 percent complete. The utility plans to eventually replace all its conventional meters with Smart Meters. This will take several more years.
Will Smart Meters eliminate meter-reading jobs?
Smart Meters eliminate the need for manual meter reads. The Water Authority’s current meter readers are transitioning to new roles (e.g., meter maintenance) and no job cuts are anticipated.
Are Smart Meters safe?
Yes. Smart Meters are being safely and successfully employed by utilities around the world. They are installed outside the home in compliance with federal guidelines for tripping hazards and only transmit data intermittently. They fully conform with federal standards for radio frequency (RF) energy use. Other uses of RF energy include radio and television broadcasting, cellular communications, and satellite communications.
Where can I find more information?
More information regarding Smart Meter technology can be found on the website of the Water Authority's AMI vendor, Sensus.
Additional information can be found on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website.
This fact sheet from the Environmental Defense Fund focuses on electric meters, but much of the information is applicable to water meters as well.