County homeowners will get new water meters this year that could eventually let them track their water use online.
Sturgeon County council voted to spend $880,690 Tuesday to have Neptune Technology Group replace all water meters in the county.
County utilities manager Jeff Yanew told council the county had about 2,450 water meters that it uses to determine water and wastewater fees. About 80 per cent of them were now almost 20 years old and in need of replacement.
Water meters tend to become less accurate at about 15 years, and the county may be losing money on these old meters, Yanew said. If 80 per cent of the county’s meters were off by five per cent, for example, the county would lose about $216,000 in water and wastewater fees a year.
Yanew said the county studied several replacement meters in 2017 and decided to test out the ones made by Neptune, the same company that recently replaced St. Albert’s water meters, at 30 homes. Neptune’s meters store up to 90 days of readings, which meshed well with the county’s habit of reading meters every two months, and like the current meters have transmitters so they can be read remotely.
The pilot showed the county could use the meter’s more accurate readings to help residents spot small leaks and track spikes in water use, such as when they filled pools or hot tubs, Yanew said.
“It’s not this mystery as to where the water is going. It’s all there.”
Yanew said he plans to propose a budget item this fall that, if approved, would let residents track readings from these meters in real time online and set automatic notifications whenever their use rates hit a certain level. Coun. Susan Evans noted this could help residents conserve water.
In an interview, Yanew said the 2,450 replacement meters would likely roll out over the next 12 months following up to three open houses, with residents scheduling times for Neptune employees to come in and install the meters. Residents can opt out of the upgrade and instead call in their meter readings; about five residents have done so with the current meters.
Yanew said the cost of the meters would come out of the vehicle and capital reserve and be repaid through utility bills over five years. The cost to residents should be minimal, as the more accurate readings should raise revenue and offset future rate hikes.