Electronic water meters could be in the yards of every residence in Fort Worth within five years.
The water department plans to launch a five-year design, study and phase-in program to replace the more than 240,000 residential and commercial water meters with those read by a radio or wireless signal, two top department executives told the City Council on Tuesday.
With “advanced metering infrastructure,” meter reading is much more accurate, they said. Customers potentially can look at their water usage daily and learn to conserve.
Electronic meters will save money by eliminating contracts for meter readers, and reduce costs for in-house reading as well as other personnel costs, and fuel and equipment costs. The new meters can detect leaks faster and can identify theft of services, among other things.
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Water Director John Carman said the bulk of the meters today are older and need replacing.
Many fail accuracy reading standards established by the American Water Works Association, a nonprofit scientific and educational association, the department said.
“We’re going to be replacing a lot of meters in the next 20 years,” Carman said.
The City Council is scheduled to vote next week whether to approve the acceptance of a low-interest, $13 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to pay for the planning and design phase of the electric meter program in 2016 and a pilot program to install the meters for 11,000 customers in 2017.
After that, if the department moves forward with the project, it will borrow another $63 million to replace all the city’s meters in 2018 and 2019, and in 2020 do a project evaluation, bringing the total project dollars to $76 million. About 76 percent of the cost will be for buying meters and batteries.
The money from the state is part of the $2 billion that Texas voters approved in 2013 to be moved from the state’s reserve account to fund water projects statewide. Twenty percent of the projects were to be conservation-related, which is where Fort Worth qualified.
Current water meters have many moving parts that can malfunction and degrade long before that is detected. They read usage by measuring the volume and speed of the water. In the new system, water goes through the meter uninterrupted and is measured by electrodes.
Several companies make advanced metering infrastructure, which consists of the meters, communications networks and data management systems. They are at a minimum 95 percent accurate when based on American Water Works standards, the water department said.
Fort Worth would join San Diego, Pittsburgh and Baltimore as among the larger U.S. cities in some phase of advanced metering infrastructure in their water departments.
Fort Worth council briefs
▪ Approved a three-year contract with Dallas-based York Risk Services Group to administer the city’s worker’s compensation program.
York will be paid $1.41 million the first year, a 23 percent increase in cost, according to a city report. The company will receive small increases in the second and third years of the contract, which carries two, one-year renewal options.
York was chosen from among 10 proposals. The company will provide seven staff members on-site to handle and process claims. The company will take over Nov. 1.
The city will end its contract early with CorVel Enterprise Comp on Oct. 31.
▪ Approved a resolution ratifying a suit against the Town of Lakeside in an annexation dispute. The land in question is part of the Fort Worth’s extraterritorial jurisdiction reached in a joint resolution between the entities in 1971.
On Aug. 17, Lakeside annexed a 119-acre tract east of Lakeside and bisected by Texas 199, a neighborhood just west of Casino Beach Park. In June, it also annexed Rankin Road and Silver Creek Road, also in the ETJ.
Lakeside withdrew an attempt to annex a 74.7-acre tract north of Lakeside and west of Texas 199, according to the resolution. — Sandra Baker