New York's Meters Go Wireless

New York City began installing automated water meter reading technology citywide on March 24, according to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's office.

The new wireless equipment will end the use of estimated water bills, giving homeowners and small businesses more accurate and timely records of usage. The technology also will increase the ability of water users to identify how they can conserve water and reduce bills.

The meter reading receivers will be part of the New York City Wireless Network, administered by Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The meter system, developed by Aclara Technology, is a more advanced model of similar systems used in Boston and Washington, D.C. Aclara is performing the installation for New York City. The total cost of the changeover to automated meter reading in New York City is about $250 million.

Modest reductions in water consumption could save New Yorkers more than $90 million annually. A five percent reduction at residential properties would produce an estimated annual savings of more than $58 million and a 10 percent reduction at commercial properties would produce an estimated annual savings of nearly $33 million.

The new metering system will reduce costs for city government by eliminating the need for a meter reading contract costing the City more than $3 million a year. It will also increase water bill collection rates, as the more accurate bills will lead to fewer disputes and more bills being paid sooner. The city's current collection rate of approximately 88 percent is expected to rise to approximately 98 percent, based on experiences seen in other cities using similar systems and enforcement methods.

According to the mayor's press release, New York City will be the largest city in the world to use wireless water metering.

"The new system will read water meters four times a day instead of four times a year, giving homeowners and small businesses a clearer picture of their water use so they can look for ways to conserve," Bloomberg explained.

The automated meter reading system consists of small, low-power radio transmitters connected to individual water meters that send readings every six hours to a network of rooftop receivers throughout the city. Close monitoring will allow the Department of Environmental Protection to send bills detailing exact usage, eventually on a monthly basis and available on the Internet, as opposed to the current estimated bills issued every three months, so ratepayers will pay for exactly what they use each billing cycle. The improved bills also will allow building owners to identify leaks that need repair.

The free installation will be completed on all 826,000 meters in New York City in 2011.