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New Water Meter Reader Technology Saves Time, Cuts Cost

Post Date:09/29/2017 8:00 am

The City of Hillsboro owns and maintains approximately 25,000 water meters. Each meter is an essential part of Hillsboro’s water distribution system, being solely responsible for measuring each customers’ actual water use for billing purposes. 

In the past, City of Hillsboro meter readers manually read each water meter every two months. The process is labor intensive and time consuming, and includes carefully removing the concrete meter box lid, lifting the protective cap on the water meter to reveal the face of the meter, and manually entering readings into a handheld electronic data logger. Water consumption information from the device is then uploaded into the City’s billing system and posted to each customer account. The billing system then calculates a water usage charge for each account and adds that charge, along with other service charges including sanitary sewer, surface water, and a fixed water charge, to the account’s Utility bill. 

While this method served Hillsboro well for many years, the City has been modernizing by automating meters reads in Hillsboro.

IMG_0749Locating and removing “manual read" water meters. Locating and removing “manual read" meters.
Photos: Hillsboro Water Department staff locating and removing "manual read" meters.

The City has been working behind the scenes for the past decade to exchange old-style "manual read" meters with new Automated Meter Reading (AMR) meters. Currently 89 percent complete, the goal of this upgrade project is to finish replacing all manual read water meters in the city by early 2020.

Installing a new Automated Meter Reading (AMR) meters. Installing a new Automated Meter Reading (AMR) meters.
Photos: Hillsboro Water Department staff installing a new Automated Meter Reading (AMR) meter.

AMR meters will enable City of Hillsboro meter readers to read meters remotely, safely, and accurately from a vehicle, via wireless radio signals. AMR meters are safe, precise, and adept at capturing the same information the City has collected from the manual read meters faster and more efficiently.

AMR offers multiple benefits to customers, the City, and the environment, including: 

  • Eliminating manual labor intensive meter reading.
  • Providing more accurate data useful for detecting water loss and leaks in the system which will result in water and cost savings for customers.
  • The new AMRs require less maintenance.
  • Ability to detect backflow (reverse flow) and continuous leaks in a customer's water service.
  • Securely transmit data remotely to data collection units in the vehicle.
  • Increases daily meter read ability of a reader from 500-600 manual reads per day to as many as 4,000 reads per day, which allows Utility Billing to switch to monthly billing without the need to add additional meter readers.
  • Reduce pollution from vehicles driven by meter readers.

Installation of the AMR meters is seamless and customers many not even realize the work was completed. The process takes about 10 minutes to replace old water meters with new AMR meters. Water service may be temporarily interrupted during the replacement process. City staff wear clearly marked logo shirts, identification badges, and drive "E-plate" vehicles featuring a prominently displayed City of Hillsboro logo. Work is being performed Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 am and 4:30 pm.

There will be no additional cost to customers to install the AMR system. The project has been in the planning stage for several years and funds are budgeted for this project using the existing rate and fee structure.

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