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New smart water meter installation to begin at the end of July



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A smart water meter sits on a table July 1 in the City of Bloomington Utilitiesoffice. The new meters are designed to withstand freezing temperatures during the winter. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

Bloomington's water is getting smarter. 

Older, manually read water meters throughout the city will be replaced with new smartwater meters starting at the end of July. The new smart water meters will give City of Bloomington Utilities' customers real-time data on their water usage and detect leaks as they are happening.

"We decided as a city and as a utility that it was time to modernize," Bloomington public affairs specialist Holly McLauchlin said.

McLauchlin said the utilities department began replacing broken water meters with smart water meters about 20 years ago. Around 10% of customers already have smart water meters. However, McLauchlin said those meters will be reprogrammed to send water reading information to the new network.

City of Bloomington Utilities Director Vic Kelson said customers will continue to receive water bills as usual. He said customers with older meters may see a slight increase in their bills because the old meters ran slower and were inaccurate. 

Previously, water bill estimates were used when weather conditions did not allow for a manual reading. The smart water meters’ constant readings will prevent the need to use estimates, Kelson said. 

"Typically if you have a water leak, the damage to your house will be much greater than your water bill," Kelson said.

City of Bloomington Utilities hired Utility Metering Solutions as a contractor for the project. According to a press release, UMS employees' will wear clothing with the UMS logo during installation. Vehicles will be clearly marked with UMS, and the teams will be supervised by City of Bloomington Utilities staff. 

"The goal is to get new meters as quickly as possible," Kelson said. 

McLauchlin said UMS contactors will arrive at the service property and locate the meter pit to see if the water is running. 

If the water is not currently being used, UMS workers will knock on the customer's door and explain they are there to install a new smart water meter, and the water will be off for 15 to 20 minutes. UMS will begin the replacement if the customer does not answer the door. 

After installation, UMS will test the water using an outside spigot if one is easily accessible. Once the new meter has been tested, UMS will leave a door note giving contact information and an explanation of the new meter.

McLauchlin said customers with meters inside the home or behind locked gates will be sent a letter with details to schedule an installation appointment. 

"If everything goes as planned, it will take one full year to install the meters," McLauchlin said. 

Kelson said the utilities department will be trained to do repairs on the smart water meters and complete further installations. The smart water meters have an estimated life span of 20 years. 

"It will not disrupt our customers lives, it will give them more information on their water use," Kelson said. 

Customers with smart water meters will be able to monitor their water usage on the City of Bloomington Utilities' website. McLachlin said the website is being updated as customers call in with additional questions.

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