Soon checking your water usage will be as simple as checking your smartphone.
The City of Prince Albert announced its city-wide plan to replace every water meter with new meters and meter reading equipment starting in April.
Over the next 10 to 11 months, every meter in the city will be replaced. Additionally, any broken valves will be repaired at a cost of $100 to the homeowner. The typical cost to replace a broken valve is about $300.
The new meters come with technology that allows residents to monitor their water usage and detect leaks and will also allow the city to read meters remotely.
Once installed, the technology will allow the city to move to monthly billing.
“This is another exciting moment for the City of Prince Albert,” Mayor Greg Dionne said.
“Some of the water meters) have been here since 1953, over 65 years old.”
A total of 11,217 water meters will be replaced. That includes residential and commercial meters, along with those used by the regional water authority. Replacing the meter will take about 30 minutes, and the water will have to be shut off for a portion of that time.
“It’s going to be challenging, and we ask people to be patient,” Dionne said.
“But when we’re done, you’re going to be able to have an app. People like apps.”
That app is available for iPhones and Android devices. It will allow residents to check their water in 15-minute intervals, monitor for leaks and backflow or put their meter on vacation mode. Because it can track more accurately, residents will be able to see if they have a leak based on their daily usage.
People without a smartphone will be able to access the same information online. Those who don’t have a smartphone and don’t use computers will be able to access their information by calling city hall. Billing, though, won’t change. All customers will continue to be billed as usual, though plans are in place to begin sending bills out every month.
Right now, with water bills only going out every three months, sometimes someone might not know they have a leak until they see how big their water bill is.
“They want us to write it off because it’s not their fault they have a leak. We have a policy that we don’t write it off,” Dionne explained.
‘The other thing to this is this is the biggest step to monthly billing. Once this is all installed, we will be in a place to add the software to do monthly billing.”
The new meters and meter reading technology will also provide some benefits for the city. As it will track the water from the point it leaves the treatment plant until it hits the water meter, the city should be able to detect water main breaks or leaks in their distribution system faster.
“They will be able to monitor the water that’s coming out of their plant, and what is consumed, so they’ll be able to work out the difference,” said Alex Hazenack, water utility services manager with Corix Water Products, the company conducting the installation of the new equipment.
Dionne said that installation of the new water meters will also allow the city to crack down on residents and businesses using a bypass valve to avoid paying their water bills.
“I’m giving people a heads up. We know there are people out there with bypass valves. We intend to deal with people bypassing our water system. That is theft,” he said.
“And then in the future, this will tell us if anyone has tampered with our system. We believe that we deliver you a product, and we want good value for a return on our product.”
The water meter upgrade is mandatory. Letters will go out to residents starting next week to explain the program and what it entails. Those letters will ask residents to make an appointment by calling 1-855-455-3696 or by visiting corix.com/princealbert and completing the online form.
If residents don’t book a time, they will receive follow-up phone calls, visits and a final letter. If they still don’t set up a time to have their meter updated, their water will be cut off.