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Friday AM August 7th, 2009

Houston is the first major city to convert to in-ground automated water meter reading. Ed Mayberry reports.


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Battery-powered transmitters are fitted onto water meters, sending data about water use to a measuring device up to 300 feet away.  The program was not without its delays, as the first devices installed by a Washington-based vendor had to be replaced.  Tommy McClung is with the Department of Public Works and Engineering’s field operations.
“Well, the ultimate goal is 100 per cent.  It’s at the point of substantial completion.  We’re dealing with difficult scenarios — water meters under concrete, development having really blocked it.  The total, we have about 440,000 accounts.  Now that does not necessarily translate one-for-one with residential population, because we have multiple accounts that serve thousands of residents.  But basically what we have is approximately 95 per cent of the account population automated.”

Eventually, the equipment will help detect water leaks.  McClung says any water saved is worth the effort, in light of shortages in some parts of the state.

“Well, that’s absolutely true.  You know, we’re blessed somewhat in Houston, and it’s going to come to us, you know, if you consider Austin and the other areas where mandated watering rules and other conservation techniques are put into place, you know, we’re fortunate at this point that those things are not implemented here in the city of Houston.  But it even, I think it, in just being aware of our environment, we should become sensitive to being more effective and efficient in what it is that we do as a community.”   

City officials say the automated system will pay for itself by 2012, mostly from needing fewer workers to manually record monthly water usage.  Eventually, utility officials could post information online so residents can monitor their own daily water use.  Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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