Water meter replacement program under budget despite COVID-19 challenges: report

Prince Albert City Hall/Daily Herald File Photo

Council will discuss progress on year one of the City’s water meter replacement program when a report detailing the total cost and amount of water leakage is presented at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting.

The water meter replacement program began in March of 2019 and was completed in July of 2020, replacing a total of 11,332 meters around Prince Albert. The total cost of the project amounted to $4,603,563.20, landing more than $3,500 under budget. The report found that the new meters more accurately read the actual water used, reducing water loss in the City. 

Completion of the program initially took longer than expected due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited the ability to gain access to Prince Albert homes to install new meters. These delays also required the City to extend the rental of additional work space for the project’s contractors and housed water meters. 

The report read that “water loss cannot be completely eliminated”, as there are several factors that can cause loss that are outside the City’s control. Main contributors to water loss are pipe, infrastructure, and water main leaks, fires, line flushing, street sweeping, and unmetered City facilities. Although water loss cannot be completely eliminated, metering all City facilities and Landscape Agreements would assist in determining a more accurate water loss value.

A number of benefits were realized during the new project, including the ability to detect if a water meter has been tampered with, assisting customers with advanced troubleshooting, and enhanced monitoring of overdue accounts. Properties that had malfunctioning building control valves or shut off valves were identified and replaced, as well as 45 commercial properties and 3 residential properties were found to have illegal bypasses. The City worked with these property owners to have the bypasses metered or removed.

Several additional initiatives that can be undertaken to improve water loss in Prince Albert will be covered during Tuesday’s meeting, including implementing a cap on the winter flat rate accounts and metering landscape/boulevard agreements. 

In late 2021, endpoint technology attached to the new water meters was disrupted, resulting in estimates being required for billing. The City of Prince Albert is currently working closely with Badger, the manufacturer of the endpoint technology, to come to a resolution for the affected water meters.

Residents can now book appointments to schedule a software update to the endpoint technology in order to resolve the issues. These updates come at no cost to the City or water utility customers.