- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority yesterday announced that it will replace about 114,000 water meters in the District within the next three years and that customers will be able to see their usage amounts every day and may pay smaller bills every month.
"The system we have selected is the most cost-effective and will allow us to conduct accurate and actual readings virtually 100 percent of the time," said WASA General Manager Jerry N. Johnson.
Twice daily in a one-second spurt, the transmitters will signal water usage from each meter to one of 64 WASA data-collection units. The data may indicate surges of usage caused by water leaks, which WASA can investigate quickly.
"It collects accurate and timely information and connects it to our customer-service department so that bills are right," WASA Chairman Glenn Gerstell said.
"Leak detection will now be possible and customers can access consumption information via the Internet."
The system also will enable WASA officials to answer customers' questions and respond to service problems more quickly, said spokeswoman Jodi Bennett.
Meter replacement has already begun in 98,000 homes and 16,000 businesses. The new meters contain state-of-the-art radio transmitters that send readings of the amount of water used to WASA service offices, WASA officials said.
WASA currently issues bills every three months. When the new system is operating, bills will be issued each month. Consequently, they will be smaller than three-month bills, Miss Bennett said.
However, three months of new meter bills may total more than a quarterly bill. That could occur because 85 percent of the meters are more than 25 years old.
The old meters sometimes lag in correct readings of water usage. The new meters also require more maintenance and, therefore, more costs.
Once a new meter is installed, the customer will receive a final quarterly bill. After that, customers will receive monthly bills for their water usage.
WASA estimates the new meters will bring in $114 million additional revenues over the next 15 years compared with the inaccurate, lower water usage that would have been recorded by the old meters.
Installation of the new meters will cost $36.2 million, the largest single investment that WASA has spent on customer-service operations in its six years of existence.
The management-installation contract is with United Metering Inc. of Harrington Park, N.J., considered by WASA as a leader in the water industry.
United has arranged to do the work with the local minority businesses of REI/Drayco and Accounting and Computer Solutions.
Called the Automated Meter Reading and Meter Replacement Program, it is the largest such project in the water-utility industry, Miss Bennett said.


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