A $1.6 million grant to upgrade water meters should give Thornton water customers better insight into how much water they actually use. “It makes everything more efficient and more customer …
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A $1.6 million grant to upgrade water meters should give Thornton water customers better insight into how much water they actually use.
“It makes everything more efficient and more customer friendly,” said Utility Maintenance Supervisor Jason Montoya. “Once we get everything implemented and set up, they’ll be able to see how they use water and when they use it. They’ll be able to log on and see three gallons go by and when it went by.”
Thornton has been slowly upgrading its 38,000 household water meters and registers, replacing the current batch that measure household water use in 1,000 gallon increments with more detailed versions that can measure use down to one tenth of a gallon.
“If they have a toilet that leaks, say two gallons every ten minutes, that’s something we can’t see right now,” Montoya said. “If we go out and try and help them find if there’s a leak in their system, we won’t see that unless we are right there at the right moment.”
The new meters should help save water for the customer and will make the city’s utility more efficient, especially for customers that have small leaks somewhere in their household plumbing.
“We hope we’ll be able to let us find small leaks that add up,” he said. “We’ll be able to see if a customer just never stops using water, if their system never zeros out. If we find a leak, we can send the customers an email, if they have a small leak, or roll a truck to their location if it’s bigger.”
Montoya said the city has been trying to replace about 2,000 meters and registers each year for the past five years and has replaced just less than half. Thornton received a $1.5 million Water and Energy Efficiency grant late last year from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. That money, and $100,000 from department funds, will be used it replace most of the remaining meters and registers.
“That should let us replace about 23,000,” he said. “And then, at that point, we should be able to use our operating budget to get the rest, and we’ll be done with it.”
Each meter setup has in three components, with registers that the water passes through and meters that record the amounts. The grant will let the city replace about 14,000 combined meters and registers and about 5,000 registers matched with meters that have already been upgraded.
“There are three parts to the system, the meter, the register and the ERT, the Electronic Radio Transmitter,” he said. “The ERT is the part that sends the signals that we collect to gather billing data.”
The grant will also help the city upgrade its ERT meter reading system. Thornton’s meters all broadcast a signal that can be read by Thornton staff, who drive through the city monthly to gather the signals. The city is upgrading to an automatic metering system that can collect the reports from meters without staff having to drive around.
“We are at a boiling point for operations from a standpoint of collecting readings,” he said. “In the next year or sooner, depending on how quickly we grow, we will need another meter reader, another meter-reading vehicle and another hard drive. So instead of purchasing and hiring all of that, we will be able to get the readings through the system. That should keep us from adding another person for that job for five years or so.”
The city will still bill in 1,000 gallon increments for now, he said, but the new metering system will give the city and water customers better insight into how they are using water within a few years. That should debut on the city’s water utility portal — a link off of the city’s www.thorntonco.gov website — in 2023.
“We have the portal now and people can go on and look at their consumption, but it’s only based on that 1,000 gallon consumption,” Montoya said. “The reading system is all or nothing. It’s either all 1,000 gallon readings or it’s all detailed. We can’t do a mix for the data, so we have to wait until the replacement project is over.”
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