Residents all have digital water meters now following the city’s agreement with Fathom Water Management Inc. to provide the Fathom Smart Grid for Water to area residents.
Fathom now provides real-time access to their water usage and billing information, according to the press release.
Fathom began exchanging the water meters Oct. 11, and all water meters were replaced with a new meter to connect with the Neptune E-Coder Advanced Meter Infrastructure System.
Smart water meters enable the city’s water department to collect meter reads without a meter reader having to come out to homes.
The Herald spoke with Ryan D Haverlah, budget director and assistant to the city manager, to learn more about how the transition process affects billing for Cove residents.
“The utility bills have been running behind schedule since the middle of November. There have been challenges during the citywide meter exchange, so the city delayed the billings in an effort to not only correct our billing cycle, but to ensure readings from the water meter exchange are accurate,” Haverlah said.
He also said the city is working to fix these billing issues.
“We have identified problems with the import of readings into our billing system and are working to make the needed corrections before sending out bills,” Haverlah said. “Importing the readings into our billing system is new and presented new challenges city staff has not encountered before.
“In recognition of these issues, the city is extending customers the flexibility of 60 days to pay this utility bill and the next utility bill, without any penalties or late fees, from the bill date for each cycle beginning with the billing on Dec. 9 for cycle 3. The utility bills sent in December and January are on an abnormal schedule. It is anticipated that utility billings will be on a normal and consistent basis by February.”
When asked if the billing is based on actual or approximate water usage, Haverlah said, “Utility rates are approved by city council and cannot be adjusted by city staff. Customers are charged based on those rates. Actual water consumption readings are used when billing customers.
“If the city was not able to obtain a meter reading from the new meters on the meter reading date because the readings were not collected until several days later, an estimate of 200 gallons was used for the consumption on the new meter for that one bill,” he added. “Actual readings will be used for all following bills. The city will be required to pay the water supplier for all water flowing through the transmission lines into the city, which ultimately is used by customers.”
Smart water meters register your water use as it passes through the meter, typically relying on the same mechanical drive that older meters have used for decades.
The data collected through Smart water meters provides improved levels of customer service and also allow utilities to notify customers of spikes in usage and help identify possible leaks, sometimes even before a bill is generated, according to the release.
With Smart water meters, customers will be able to review their water use at any time by logging in to their account and have almost real-time information available to monitor their use and costs, and how their water use compares to the water use of their neighborhood and city, according to a release.
Any questions or concerns regarding the water meter exchange process should be directed to Fathom, Monday thru Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 623-518-4022.