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Are you really reading my meter?
With over 45,000 meters in a 220-square mile service area, you may wonder how EID reads every meter.
We start by being very efficient and develop meter routes that are in line with EID’s eight billing cycles. We also utilize an automated meter reading (AMR) system that more efficiently allows our personnel to read customer meters—remotely. Over 20,000 of our customers’ meters use AMR technology.
AMR meters use communication technology to read meters without having to access the meter, which is located in a meter box in the ground.
“Automated meter systems are becoming the standard for utilities around the country,” said Jim Pritchard, EID’s meter services supervisor. “We’ve been using this technology since 2005 for meters in EID’s service area. Automated meter reading allows for more accurate and faster collection of water usage readings than the more labor-intensive manual method and it improves safety conditions for EID personnel in the field.”
Water meters with AMR technology include a small radio transmitter powered by a battery that is connected to the water meter by a cable. The radio device collects a reading from the meter and transmits the reading to a receiving device located in an EID service vehicle that’s being driven through your neighborhood.
The data collected consists of a unique meter number and the digits of the meter’s measurement, which is used to generate the customer’s utility bill. The signal the water meter transmits produces radio frequency waves many times lower than many other everyday items found in homes, such as cell phones, baby monitors, and wireless routers.
Meters are read on a bi-monthly basis, by either radio or manual read, with 99 percent accuracy. Very rarely must a meter be estimated and only when the meter is inaccessible or unsafe conditions prevent our technicians from gaining access. Most of the more densely populated western part of EID’s service area and accounts with sewer service are on the AMR system. As meters fail or are in difficult areas to access we upgrade them to the AMR system. All new installations are also part of the AMR system.
Routes on the AMR system only require the technician to drive slowly through the neighborhood, making obtaining the reads much more efficient. Meters that are manually read
require the meter box be opened and the read manually entered into a hand-held device. The reads are then uploaded from the device to our billing system.
Once the meter data is uploaded, the data is reviewed by EID’s utility billing staff for unusual consumption levels. If the consumption for a particular account is unusually high based on historical usage, staff will send a technician out to reread the meter and check for visible leaks. Based on the results of this service check, customers are notified of possible leaks via door tags, letters, and—in some cases—phone calls to bring any issues to the customer’s attention as quickly as possible.
In 2015, EID meter techs performed almost 268,674 meter reads and 1,134 rereads. Of those rereads performed, 648 were verified as high consumption, 327 were possible customer leaks, and only 159 were bad reads.
EID maintains three separate water systems. The main water system runs from El Dorado Hills to Pollock Pines and encompasses the majority of EID’s customers. The Outingdale system takes water from the Middle Fork of the Cosumnes River and provides it to 191 remote service accounts in the community of Outingdale, approximately 15 miles southeast of Placerville. The Strawberry system is located about 40 miles east of Placerville along Highway 50. Water for this system comes from the upper South Fork of the American River and provides water to 147 remote service accounts.
With the assistance of a grant program, EID was able to change over the last of our unmetered connections to meters on an Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) system. This means that reads from the remote Strawberry area are sent automatically to the District without the need to have a technician physically read the meter or drive by to get a radio read. The AMI system in the Strawberry area has saved a considerable amount of staff time and money by eliminating the need to physically visit the remote area to obtain reads.
If you have questions about your meter or water usage, please visit the customer service section of the EID website at www.eid.org/customers or email us at email@example.com.
This article was featured in the September / October 2016 issue of The Waterfront.