“Smart” Water Meters Can Detect Leaks

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It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and our dire drought has created the need for many innovative water-saving measures. One that is playing out in various parts of California is the installation of so-called smart water meters by hard-pressed water utilities, especially in view of Gov. Brown’s recent directive mandating steep cutbacks in water usage statewide.

Most water meters simply track the total amount of water running through your pipes for billing purposes. Smart meters utilize digital technology with sensors at various points to determine how much water you use for drinking, washing, landscaping, etc., along with how much might be leaking away. Similar technology is in wider use to track electricity consumption.

Smart water meters can provide up-to-the-minute data that can be accessed by homeowners on utility websites to reveal patterns of water usage – and waste. Homeowners get valuable feedback about ways to cut back on water consumption, especially when it comes to pinpointing leaks.

EPA studies have found that leaks account for, on average, 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year, which is enough to fill a backyard swimming pool. Many homeowners have silent leaks they don’t even notice or think too inconsequential to deal with. But a silent leak in a toilet can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water per month.

A pilot program of the East Bay Municipal Water District in Northern California resulted in the installation of 4,000 water meters in single-family homes. Data collected showed that about a quarter of those customers had leaks, usually in toilets, irrigation systems or water-softener systems. Putting a stop to those leaks can go a long way toward easing our state’s water crisis. It also can save you considerable money on your water bills.

The biggest smart meter program is taking place in the San Francisco area. The city has spent $60 million to install 178,000 smart meters. Residents can visit a website to check their daily water use and compare monthly totals with similar households. Sacramento citizens have more than 40,000 smart meters installed in their homes and a program is underway to put in more than 60,000 more. San Diego has installed smart meters for more than 12,000 businesses, and Los Angeles is getting ready to embark on a small pilot program.

The reason every water utility isn’t putting them everywhere is the cost – as much as $300 apiece, plus ongoing expense to manager the data network and maintain/repair the high-tech meters. Utilities foot the bill, not homeowners – at least not directly. But you can be sure you will ultimately pay for them in the form of higher water bills.

With or without a smart water meter installed in your home, it’s a good idea to identify and repair unseen leaks that cost you big bucks. Our technicians use specialized equipment to detect subtle leaks during annual inspections for our “Family Plan” service agreement customers. Ask us how you can sign up and start saving money that’s now going down your drain.