New Water Meter FAQ

Getting Smarter and Working Together

AMI smart water meters help to conserve and ensure a better water future. Working with our customers is the best way to reduce water use, improve the reliability and sustainability of our water system and minimize cost. Smart meters provide an outstanding foundation for strong collaboration with our customers. Smart meter customers now have the tools and information to help save water and save money.

Frequently asked questions

AMI stands for Advanced Metering Infrastructure. It is a method of using communication technology to read meters remotely without having to access the meter located in meter boxes in the ground.

The City of Lowell has chosen a fixed based network that provides two-way communication from the meter box to strategically located Base Stations. The City is replacing water meters throughout Lowell with new meters equipped with a meter transceiver. The meter transceiver is used to collect and transmit meter reading data, unique identification numbers, operating status, and various alarms at regular intervals to the Base Stations.

Advanced meter systems are quickly becoming the standard for utilities around the country. These new devices allow for more accurate and faster collection of water usage readings than the current manual method and improve safety conditions for City staff. Currently, the meter readers must open every meter box to obtain a reading from the meter. Introducing automatic meter reading as the standard for Lowell is one of the ways we can better serve our customers and improve the overall efficiency of the utility department.

The new meters can provide hourly readings during each billing cycle rather than 1 read every 30 days with the existing system. This detailed usage can enable the City to automate its meter reading process, provide improved customer service through data access, reduce leaks to promote resource conservation, and improve Utility operational efficiencies by capturing real-time meter reading data.

• Improved customer service by increasing accuracy and frequency of meter readings.

• Minimized need to access meters at the property.

• Allows us to detect possible leaks daily and alert the customer immediately which can potentially save the customer from a high bill by having a leak go undetected for a month like the current system.

All of the City’s meters will be replaced with new smart meters over a period of time.

To upgrade the meter to one capable of communicating with the AMI equipment, and as an extension of an existing program to replace aging meters after they have reached the end of their life cycle. With the introduction of newer technology, the existing meters are not able to communicate using the AMI technology. The newer meters will save labor time, prevent recording errors, minimize wear and tear on vehicles, and minimize the need for City employees to access the meter pit.

No. The AMI system is a budget neutral project and included in the current utility rates.

No, the City pays for the costs of the meters and their installation through existing utility fees. The City has prepared for the cost of this project as part of its annual capital improvement planning process. This project does not have any impacts to the existing water and sewer rates for the City.

The City plans to develop an application for your smartphone or computer that will provide real-time data to the customer about their water usage. When this is developed, water customers will have the ability to access their daily water consumption online in one-hour increments. The City intends to do a public awareness notice and publish instructions for online account maintenance when complete.

No. Since the water meters are located outside of the home in the City right-of-way, you will not need to be home for the replacement work; however, if your water meter happens to be accessed from your back yard, we can make arrangements to schedule this work if needed. A door hanger will be placed on your front door to let you know when your meter has been replaced.

If you have a leak, low pressure, or some other problem after the installation, or at any other time, you will be provided contact numbers that you can call to report your concern. Because your water will be turned off temporarily during the meter change process, you may experience a brief period of air or discolored water. In most cases briefly running your cold water will clear up this situation.

Yes. All upgraded meters have been tested and guaranteed accurate by the manufacturer, Mueller Systems, in compliance with American Water Works Association (AWWA) accuracy standards. Additionally, the design of the installation process includes a testing phase, which allows a subset of the meters to be installed and the billing software to be integrated, so the entire process, from the meter to the bill, will be tested and verified for accuracy prior to system-wide installation.

Possibly but in most cases No. Older mechanical meters tend to lose accuracy as they age and, therefore, may not accurately measure all the water being used. The new water meter will accurately measure the water that you use. All new meters are tested prior to delivery by the manufacturer to ensure that they register properly. If you see a higher bill immediately upon the new meter installation and you have not changed your water use pattern, it is likely the old meter was running slow, or you have a minor leak in the system that wasn’t registering correctly through the old meter. The benefits of improved and more accurate usage information to the Utility and customers will reduce wasted water through the enhanced system capability to send alerts and notifications such as stopped meter, customer leak detection, and utility distribution system leak detection.

No. Access needs to be available at all times. There will still be instances when meter technicians will visit the meter on site to perform routine maintenance or verify high readings. Obstructions to the meter box are subject to removal by City personnel.

Please, keep access to the water meter available at all times to ensure it is accessible for any potential emergency that would require the meter to be turned off. Be careful during the fall foliage season not to cover your water meter with piles of leaves.

Each radio frequency device has a unique identification number, which is transmitted along with the meter reading. The unique number is compared to your account record electronically to ensure a match.

No. The radio transmission operates in compliance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations to avoid interference with other electronic devices.

Yes. Data transmitted from the meter through the system is encrypted through the entire process.

The project is being managed by City staff.

While replacement times will vary, replacing a meter should take no longer than 10 minutes for residential meters, during which the water will be shut-off for a portion of that time. The installation crews will make every effort to keep the interruption to your service to a minimum. Commercial and industrial customers will be contacted in advance to schedule installation to minimize the disruption to their business. After the new meter has been installed, a door tag will be placed on the front door notifying customers the work has been completed.

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