Throughout La Plata there are a few thousand water meters that measure the amount of water used by each customer. Historically, four times a year, public works staff traveled every street in Town reading the meters in order to calculate how much water has been used. In addition, there were many other times when a home was sold, apartment vacated, or a new resident or business comes in to town that the staff had to make a special trip out to read the meter of that single property ending or starting water service. Fuel, staff time, and wear on vehicles added to the cost of this service.
The Town had been looking to replace aging meters as well as find efficiencies in reading meters. An opportunity came to apply for a State grant that would replace the meters with a new meter that could be read remotely, and collect the data without the personnel hours in the field.
The Town received approval from Maryland Department of the Environment for its procurement of a new water meter system. The new system is an automatic meter reading system manufactured by Mueller Systems, one of the oldest water system manufacturers in the country. Every water meter in Town was replaced or had the new meter reading technology added to newer meters in 2012.
The project included a grant of $500,000 and a low interest loan of an additional $500,000. This new technology not only provides efficiency in reading meters, but allow residents to check their water consumption online, giving more information to water customers. The data helps the Town check for leaks and reduce water loss. Meter reading all happens remotely, and no longer requires Public Works staff to drive throughout Town to collect meter readings.
A major success for the Town, in that it is 50% funded by a green grant awarded through the State of Maryland’s Department of the Environment, the Town replaced its meters for half of the cost, and got a better technology in the meantime. The funding came from stimulus dollars from the Federal Government. This project removed a meter replacement program that was solely at Town expense, and with older technology. This effort reduced unaccounted water loss and saves labor on meter reading. This will reduce long term cost of water to our residents, and improve customer service.
Water customers can access information about their water use online. With the Town’s Automated Metering Infrastructure system (AMI), the Town reads water meters automatically and gather data about water consumption to help track down leaks. The Town currently monitors the water system for long leaks, where water runs through a meter for 96 straight hours. The system can send out email alerts to those who sign up about abnormal consumption or potential leaks based on defined parameters.
Customers may access the customer portal that allows viewing of individual meter consumption data online and also receive email alerts. Each customer is able to see their hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly consumption data on a 24 hour delayed basis. Each meter transmits use data to the network overnight from the previous period. This information helps customers manage their water usage and help with water conservation practices.
If you are interested accessing the customer portal please call Town Hall at (301) 934-8421. Town staff will help you set up your account and have the system issue a user name and password. It will be necessary to have online access and be able to receive email to set up the account. A customer having direct access to their consumption information helps them to manage, use, and potentially catch leaks in the home sooner.