A citywide transition to smart water meters will begin next summer following a series of unanimous votes by Allen City Council. The new system will offer multiple benefits to customers, including near real-time water use information, equal billing intervals and a customer portal to help Allen residents and businesses optimize their water use.
An upgrade to AMI, or Advance Metering Infrastructure, became a council priority following the summer of 2019 when hot and dry weather prompted citizen questions about water meter reading, meter testing and water billing. In response, councilmembers directed an audit of meter reading and utility billing which was completed in July 2020.
The audit revealed meter reading and billing processes were accurate, but that meters read slightly low, meaning meters registered less water than customers actually used. The audit also found that current metering technology did not provide the level of detail desired by customers and City personnel to help identify potential causes of high water consumption.
After receiving the audit report, Allen City Council voted to begin a conversion to AMI to help provide greater detail on customer water use and improve water conservation.
Benefits of AMI
Advance Metering Infrastructure provides several service improvements to Allen utility customers:
- Meter readings are registered every hour, instead of the current frequency of once per month
- Readings are sent from customer meters to data collectors four times per day, conserving transmitter batteries to attain a 20- year lifespan
- Billing intervals will be set to equal lengths
- A customer portal allows water customers to view water use patterns and modify behavior, leading to greater water conservation
- The system proactively reports leaks past the water meter to the City staff and citizens that register on the customer portal
In addition, the City will benefit from staffing efficiencies as a result of automatic, digital readings once meters are installed citywide.
Contract agreements and installation timeline
Following an extensive bid process, the City of Allen selected vendor Aclara to perform the installation of 32,000 meters and associated infrastructure, including integration into the City’s chosen customer service portal, for $10.3 million, plus a 6% contingency. The annual maintenance and upkeep, also handled by Aclara, will cost $91,611 per year.
In addition, the City will enter a five-year, $360,506 contract with WaterSmart for a customer service portal and will spend $405,787 for a digital water meter test bench, software and training which integrates with new AMI smart water meters.
All expenses were budgeted into the City of Allen’s Capital Improvement Program or the FY21-22 annual budget so that the project could begin quickly, pending City Council approval. Aclara will immediately begin ordering AMI system components and conducti staff training in February 2022. In June, 25 test meters will be installed at the homes of City staff members so real-time training and technology integration can begin.
Approximately 800 smart water meters will be installed in both July and August – a slower start to help assure functionality before full-speed installations begin. Remaining meters will be installed at a pace of 2,000-3,000 meters per month, beginning in August 2022 with completion anticipated by December 2023. Customer letters, door hanger notifications, and a large public information campaign will accompany the rollout of new meters.
Project updates will be provided at CityofAllen.org/SmartMeters.