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Waterloo water meter upgrades

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This week, residents in Waterloo received a notice that the Waterloo Water Works will be upgrading their meters. Officials said that the new meters will help increase accuracy of readings and save money.

Currently, the Water Works contract meter readers to go out and check the small plastic displays on the outside of homes and business. But General Manager Dennis Clark said that these meters can introduce error in several ways.

The people reading them must manually punch the numbers into a handheld device, and they sometimes jumble the numbers. Additionally, the small plastic gears inside the box can slip and show inaccurate readings.

So now, instead of reading numbers visually, a technician can just scan a small black box with a reader gun, and the data is transferred wirelessly, without the possibility for human error.

Clark said installation is relatively simple.

"The couplings that the meter connects to are exactly the same as the old meter,” Clark said. “So if the customer’s plumbing is in good repair, we should be able to unscrew these couplings, take the old meter out and put the new meter in.”

If the shutoff valve inside the house isn’t in good shape, the homeowner will have to repair it before the new meter can be installed.

Clark estimated that this could run about $100 if a plumber is involved. He noted that, in general, property owners are responsible for all piping from the water main to their home.

Apart from that, the Water Works is covering the cost of these new meters.

Clark said it’s all part of future-proofing an aging system.

"And it allows us to work with customers, to help them understand their water consumption,” he said. “How much water they are using, where water might be leaking … help control their water bill.”

As for progress, Clark said that they service about 25,000 meters, and they’ve got just over 2,000 left to upgrade.

Once they finish adding the scanners to homes, they plan to attach another box to them, so that meters can be read from up to several miles away.

That’s still a few years out.

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