Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

Water district installing high-tech water meters

October 20, 2005

About a third of the homes in Lansing already are outfitted with a small device that is capable of transmitting information to a nearby handheld computer device.

No, it's not Big Brother relaying private information to some super-secret government agency. It's a new way for the Lan-Del Water District to gauge monthly water usage.

The district is just about to the halfway point of a three-year project to install new meters in homes and businesses throughout Lansing. The meters - part of the first districtwide upgrade of meters in about 30 years - are outfitted with small radios that can transmit the number of gallons a water used each month at a home or business.

John Marksberry, field operator for Lan-Del, said the meters have been going into all new housing that's been built in Lansing since early 2004. Now, crews are going to homes and businesses throughout the district to replace old meters with the new.

"We're still reading everything manually," Marksberry explained.

But early next spring, when the project is expected to hit the halfway point, Marksberry said the district's meter readers would undergo training to learn how to use handheld units that will register the transmitted signal on a computer disk. The information on those disks then can be used by the district's billing department.

Marksberry said the transmitters ultimately would delete the need for the district to estimate bills - because they would do away with most of the obstacles that now keep meter readers from getting to a meter.

Another benefit of the new meters to the district, Marksberry said, is their accuracy.

"The way most water meters are, if they're not working, they're usually not working in the favor of the customer," he said. "These will probably cut our water losses."

In tandem with the installation of new meters is the district's installation of check valves in homes and small businesses. The devices prevent the backflow of contaminants from a home's plumbing into the water district's lines.

Before installing the check valves, district officials are urging owners to be sure their plumbing systems have some sort of device that will handle excess pressure caused by thermal expansion in hot water heaters.

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