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The Daily Tar Heel

Orange County considers new water meter readers

The Orange Water and Sewer Authority will decide on March 24 whether to invest in an advanced metering infrastructure system that will allow for the remote reading of water meters in the county.

With the new system, OWASA would be able to collect information from customers’ water meters via radio transmissions, instead of employees currently traveling to each location monthly. Customers will then have online access to their water usage data. 

The estimated cost of the new system is $6 million.

Greg Feller, a spokesperson for OWASA, said the system could be funded without increasing the rates and fees charged to customers. He said the cost would be offset through savings garnered by avoiding further investments in the current water meter technology and by eliminating the need for meter readers to travel.

“Savings of about $325,000 per year would in time recover this investment,” Feller said. “AMI would pay for itself.”

Feller said the system will also allow staff to have access to updated information that will allow them to inform customers of possible leaks on their property.

“It will make it a lot easier and quicker for OWASA to see patterns that indicate there may be a leak,” Feller said. “Fixing leaks sooner would save water and money for customers.”

Chapel Hill Town Council member George Cianciolo said he thinks the new system would be advantageous for both individual homeowners and the community as a whole. He said the real-time updates would encourage citizens to be more aware of water conservation.

“Some people really like to track things,” Cianciolo said. “It’s kind of like driving a Prius and checking your efficiency in the economy mode. People get a kick out of it. They’ll be asking ‘how much can I save?’”

Cianciolo said the meter system also would add safety and efficacy benefit, saving OWASA staff time and reducing the risks involved in travel and working on-site.

Chapel Hill resident Jerry Salak said although his water usage does not vary much from month to month, if the new system is implemented he would likely track usage online.

“It seems like a good investment, especially for people who really need to keep track,” Salak said. “However, I wonder if someone would lose their job.”

Feller said the final decision on implementation will be made by the OWASA Board of Directors and that the board will make the decision based upon feedback from the public.

Cianciolo said OWASA has been discussing the system for several years and that the organization has done thorough research in determining the best time to implement the system. He said he does not believe that there will be much opposition given OWASA’s dedication to the community.

“Of course, there are always going to be those with privacy concerns, worrying ‘oh, someone’s going to know I take long showers,’” Cianciolo said. “But OWASA has a pretty good reputation in the community and I’d be surprised to hear that there are a lot of concerns.”

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