City looks to move toward a remote-read water systemApr 05, 2021 01:24PM ● By Linda Petersen
CENTERVILLE—City officials are applying for a federal grant which they hope will help them move Centerville’s water system toward a remote-read system.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART grant provides 50/50 cost share funding to water systems to help increase their efficiency. Centerville officials hope to use the grant to help them acquire more meters for its system. Currently, of about 5,000 connections, the city has radio-read meters installed on 900 of them, Interim Public Works Director Mike Carlson told the City Journal. In the past, priority has been given to meters that have been difficult to access.
Under the grant, the Bureau of Reclamation would fund up to 50 percent of a total $150,000 project. That would allow the city to acquire and install about 240 meters, Carlson said. City officials think it’s a good deal.
“The WaterSMART grant is one of the most competitive grants but honestly one of the most beneficial,” City Manager Brant Hanson told the city council March 16. “The matching contributions are reasonable, not a lot of strings attached to them. That’s one of the challenges in finding grants these days, particularly from the federal government, is that they have a lot of strings attached. WaterSMART is pretty flexible but they are competitive. I think we have a pretty good chance at this one.”
With the radio-read meters, a city employee can drive by a connection and the meter’s data is automatically uploaded into a laptop computer. If meters were installed citywide, this would mean the entire system could be read in four or five hours, rather than the three days it takes currently, Carlson said.
“This would make it where we could read every month, we could read every day if we want.” City personnel could also notify property owners quickly when they have a water leak “or just a gradual use that’s going up,” he said.
While remote-read meters will definitely add to the system’s efficiency, there will be no financial benefit to the city, Hanson said. As such, moving the water system to a remote-read system will need to be done slowly as funds allow.
Carlson favors the slower approach anyway. The batteries in the meters are warrantied for 20 years, he said.
“If we do so many a year, we’re not going to have to have a lump sum when they go bad or have the whole town at once go dead with the batteries,” he said.
Although remote systems that do not need to be read individually and instead send the data via central towers are currently available, they are cost-prohibitive and unlikely to provide sufficient benefit to Centerville City.
The city council expressed their support for the grant application.
“I love the idea of having a city that can be completely read multiple times because I know there are citizens who would love to know if they have a water leak when they’re out of town or otherwise,” City Council member George McEwan said.
The city’s lobbying firm, The Ferguson Group, has been helping city officials apply for the grant. Although it is unclear when they will find out if Centerville has qualified for the grant, even if approved, work cannot begin on the project until February 2022, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.