Sterling considers going
cellular for water meters
By D. Young Folkerson
Mar. 29, 2018
STERLING—It was just talk, but when water is involved, people’s ears perk up.
The talk in Sterling was really about water meters—and smart ones at that.
During the Sterling town council meeting on Friday March 23, the council invited David Welch, director of Hydro Specialties Company of Draper, to discuss the possible installation in the town of smart meters to keep track of water-collection data and accurate billing.
The smart water meters were touted as next-generation options for utilities.
As background, when water levels are low in Sterling, the town asks their citizens to conserve. Yet without accurate water information, citizens are never fully confident where they stand with the amount of water that can or cannot be used.
In short, it’s hard to know exactly what their water levels are without real-time usage information.
In addition, it would be nice to know how much water is actually being wasted prior to the monthly readings.
With smart meters, the information would be constantly gathered. This would help customers easily see where water is being wasted.
In other words, the smart meters maintain constant vigilance concerning water usage in the whole system.
“The smart metering uncovers leaks where water is wasted before it even reaches customers. This can add up to a significant amount,” Welch said.
Moving to an invisible wireless network to track the water would make both used and unused water visible. All of it would be accounted for
“Knowing where the water is is the key to managing it,” Welch said. “The network is not a walk-by, drive-by deal. It’s dead on with multiple reads a day. The city will have the ability to read better as they maintain the software.”
The smart meters would minimize the need for a lot of water-reading equipment such as old-style meters, laptops, city workers to oversee the readings, etc.
“Instead of going around with laptops, we are sending our people into the field with nothing but their smart phones,” Welch said. “This makes collecting data and making communications a lot easier.”
Pointing at the small apparatus which reads the water meter, register and end point all in one, Randall Cox, Sterling’s mayor, said, “Will that read it all in one device:”
“It’s scary accurate,” Welch said.
In the past, technology worked only for electrical utilities which provided the meters with power. The smart meters run off battery technology and are therefore monitored and inspected regularly.
In Sterling, 32 meters aren’t being used right now, and checking on them monthly is an expense in itself.
“Some of those meters are off. Like the one at Lily’s, a few vacant houses, and there are a couple in fields out of the city limits that are checked monthly,” Councilwoman Yvonne Larsen said.
The town agreed to put locks on those meters.
Hydro Specialties Company is planning to provide Sterling with several options. This will enable the town to consider the financial and other costs involved in the potential switch to smart meters, along with a propagation study which proves the change is a sound financial investment. The meter is engineered to deliver superior performance, low maintenance and durability.
The company anticipates a strong market for cellular-enabled smart meters in the coming years for several reasons. First, cellular smart water meters are essentially plug-and-play devices that require no additional network infrastructure, and the information technology network communications elements used in the water meters can also be used for power plants and other utilities.
With Sterling’s challenging terrain, which often makes communication difficult, using the existing cellular infrastructure for smart meters is very attractive. Also, with the rising cost of water, which is a scarcity, citizens need an improved readout of their consumption, not to mention the data allows immediate notification for possible leaks.
“Cities that switch to smart water meters typically discover that they’ve been losing at least 10 percent of their water due to leaks,” Welch said. “Not only can those savings help Sterling to conserve water resources, but they can be a springboard for other smart investments.”