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City of Coppell water utility customers will soon start seeing their water meters replaced as part of the City's Advanced Water Meter System project, a new service enhancement initiative to install advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) throughout the community. The city-wide installation of 13,375 new meters is projected to take 14 months. Once installed, the new meter system will provide customers with more accurate water usage data that is updated multiple times throughout the day, water budget and water consumption threshold alerts, comparative data, leak alerts and notifications from the City. Consumption data will be updated on an internet-based customer dashboard that can be accessed from a computer, tablet or smart phone.
City Manager Mike Land explained how the Advanced Water Meter System project is part of the City's larger efforts to utilize technology to become what is referred to in the marketplace as a "Smart City."
"We are actively looking for ways to use data and technology to enhance our customer experience, City's services, livability and sustainability," he said. "The Advanced Water Meter System project aligns perfectly with these goals."
With the Advanced Water Meter System, Coppell residents will have access to data that will give them an increased understanding of their water consumption. In turn, City staff will be better equipped to assist customers.
"If someone calls and they don't believe that they used that much water, right now the only thing we can do is go out and look at the meter to see if they have a leak or have the meter tested," said Kim Tiehen, Assistant Director of Finance for the City of Coppell. "With this technology, we're going to be able to show them what is happening with their consumption. They're going to be able to graph it, and they're going to be able to see it. This will allow us to provide a level of customer service that was unattainable before." Currently, the City uses three types of metering systems and multiple meter brands. This variability poses operational challenges for City staff. The Advanced Meter System project will include one type of system and one brand for all meters, which will better equip City staff to maintain operations, manage inventory, and provide all customers with the same level of customer service. Once the meters are installed and customers start accessing the data from their new meters, the information will allow them to more closely monitor their water consumption and adjust their usage accordingly. In turn, it will provide the City more accurate utility analytics and customer consumption data, better meter data management, increased customer transparency, a reduction in water loss, a reduction in labor costs, a baseline for distribution leak detection and the ability to send alerts and messages to customers. In short, customers will be given the tools and data they need to better plan and "Get to Know Your H20." The City utilized performance contracting to partner with Siemens, who studied the City's current system and developed a design build program to install the advanced meters. According to Tiehen, the Advanced Water Meter System project will increase the accuracy of meter reads and actual water consumption, which will provide the City with higher revenues without increasing water rates. The additional funding, along with the operational savings, will fund the project over the next 15 years. Additionally, the City will be able to reduce the costs associated with the current meter-reading process.
"The City currently sends out designated employees to manually read meters," said Tiehen. "The automated process will allow us to reduce the cost – both in dollars and time – of reading meters."
Coppell City Council approved the $6.8 million Advanced Water Meter System project at the April 24, 2018 meeting, and the funding was secured as part of the July 24, 2018 Certificate of Obligation issuance.
Crews will begin installing new meters soon, notifying residents and businesses days in advance with door hangers and other communications. Concurrently, City representatives will begin educating customers on how to use the internet-based dashboard.