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California drought: ‘Smart’ water meters coming to San Jose, other Bay Area cities

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You have received a smartphone. Possibly a smartwatch. Or perhaps a sensible doorbell.

Within the coming months and years as California struggles with worsening droughts, hundreds of thousands of Bay Space residents will quickly be getting a wise water meter.

Water meters—the clunky brass gadgets that sit in underground containers close to the sidewalks outdoors most properties and companies, measuring water use—have been round because the 1820s. However in lots of areas, utilities solely ship out water payments each two months, or perhaps as soon as a month.

Meaning except residents exit, raise the heavy concrete lid and dutifully write down the numbers on their analog water meters, most individuals do not know till weeks have passed by that they’ve a significant leak from irrigation systems, previous pipes or bathrooms, losing 1000’s of gallons of water and working up their invoice.

Good meters as a substitute ship wi-fi indicators in actual time so residents and utilities can higher monitor water use hourly, every day or weekly, making it simpler to hit conservation targets and detect leaks.

“We are trying to get our customers over the ignorance-is-bliss mentality to the knowledge-is-power mentality,” mentioned Nelsy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which offers water to 1.4 million individuals in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

San Francisco put in sensible water meters in 2014 throughout California’s final drought. Boston, Washington D.C. and New York Metropolis have them. However sensible meters are costly to put in. The expertise modifications yearly. Some utilities have been reluctant to make the leap.

As California’s newest drought stretches into its third 12 months, water provides proceed to tighten and state conservation guidelines improve, so a rising variety of water businesses are deciding to improve.

On Friday, the San Jose Water Firm, a non-public agency that gives water to 1 million individuals in San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, obtained remaining approval from the California Public Utilities Fee to put in sensible meter expertise on the 230,000 water meters at properties and companies in its service space.

Work on the $100 million challenge will start in two years and can end in 2026, with the typical water invoice going up about $5 a month to pay for it, firm officers say.

The corporate ran a pilot project in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood and located properties with the expertise lower water use 7% on common, and the period of leaks fell 38%.

“It went well,” mentioned Liann Walborsky, a San Jose Water spokeswoman. “The customers who were in the pilot really enjoyed that they were able to see their water usage, and we saw results in conservation.”

To the east, the Alameda County Water District, which serves Fremont, Union Metropolis and Newark, is spending $41 million to improve its 86,500 meters by 2025. It already has completed 17,500, mentioned spokeswoman Sharene Gonzales.

To the north, the Marin Municipal Water District is shifting ahead with plans to exchange its 58,000 analog meters over three years at a price starting from $20 million to $25 million.

And East Bay MUD has put in sensible meter expertise on about 19,000 properties and companies. The district’s board, primarily based in Oakland, is scheduled to resolve in September whether or not to broaden this system.

“Just about every utility I know has a full smart meter system, or is investigating it, or is in the process of deploying it,” mentioned Dave Wallenstein, an affiliate engineer with East Bay MUD.

The expertise shouldn’t be with out controversy. When Pacific Gas & Electric put in sensible fuel and electrical energy meters throughout Northern California a decade in the past, a small however vocal group of protesters fought the concept. They raised issues about privateness and potential well being dangers.

In 2011, the California Council on Science and Expertise, which advises state government on expertise points, concluded the radio frequency emissions from sensible meters have been nicely inside federal security requirements for cellphones and microwave ovens.

Nonetheless, most businesses, together with PG&E, permit prospects to opt-out. Walborsky mentioned San Jose Water will do this when particular plans are completed within the subsequent two years and set up begins.

For individuals who already monitor their electrical energy use carefully or watch their fuel mileage in actual time whereas driving, a wise water meter is one other instrument to “geek out” on, say some specialists. Most methods, like San Francisco’s, permit individuals to go browsing to an internet site and monitor their water use. Some have sensible cellphone apps. Some ship textual content messages when there are huge spikes in water use.

“I remember a project I was working on in Coachella Valley where somebody had a really high water bill,” mentioned Lon Home, a veteran vitality and water marketing consultant who works in Arizona and California. “They got irate. The water company said, ‘You used a lot of water in this particular week.’ They said, ‘Oh yeah, we went on a trip and left the hose running.’ “

On privateness, as a part of its approval from the state PUC, San Jose Water and its contractors are required to adjust to the California Shopper Privateness Act and never transmit particular data, resembling buyer names or invoice cost standing, over the wi-fi community.

Some East Coast utilities have put in smart meters to chop down on labor prices. With wireless signals despatched from meters straight, they now not want staff to manually learn the meters.

Some water specialists say that as local weather change continues to warmth up the already arid West, practically each metropolis can have sensible water meters, which can also detect giant leaks in distribution pipes and, in some circumstances, extra simply find people who find themselves watering lawns over the restricted variety of days in droughts.

“In a drought, a utility can either say, ‘You can never water your grass again,’ or you can say, ‘Here’s how much water you can use, you decide when you use it and how you use it,’ ” Home mentioned. “It’s a two-edged sword. It can be a bludgeon from the government, or it can be enabling for customers. But given what California is facing, they have to do this.”

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California drought: ‘Good’ water meters coming to San Jose, different Bay Space cities (2022, June 22)
retrieved 22 June 2022

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