Vol. 15 Issue No. 4 | January 28 – February 3, 2009

New water meter system working great for Carefree

By Curtis Riggs | January 28, 2009

Automatic meter readers cut costs, usage

CAREFREE – The implementation of an automatic water meter-reading program has produced great results for the Carefree Water Company since the system was implemented around the end of the year.

“It’s been going real, real well,” water company general manager Stan Francom said. Since late 2008, 760 water meters have been fitted with radio transmitting devices that enable them to be read automatically.

“It has reduced what normally took 20 hours to two hours and 45 minutes,” Francom said comparing the time it used to take to read meters in the Carefree Highlands and other areas of east Carefree to the time it takes to read them automatically.

The installations began in the Carefree Highlands (north of Desert Forest Golf Course and other areas of north Carefree) because the large lots in the area and the distance between homes posed the greatest problems in reading the meters automatically. Automatic meter reader installations were then done in Carefree Rolling Hills, Velvet Shadows, Black Mountain Foothills and other areas of east Carefree.

Francom said 1,100 more Carefree Water Company meters could be retrofitted with the Badger automatic meter reading devices this summer “if revenues support the costs.” These meters would be west of Tom Darlington Drive.

It costs the water company $145 per meter to retrofit them so they can be automatically read. The water company saves $25 per meter retrofit by using water company personnel.

The new program will likely help Carefree with its current water conservation efforts and also help CWC customers facing high bills cope with them because of the program’s capability of tracking water use and alerting customers to possible water leaks. Water-meter monitors that enable people to track their water use from inside the house are also available from the water company for $75.

“We can go back and provide a print out that shows usage on an hourly basis,” he said. “If someone has leaks that can help them locate the leak.”

The new meter reading system is also capable of letting a customer know if a water meter has run for 24 hours straight, which is another indication there is a large leak in someone’s water system.

The new meter reading system also comes in handy when customers dispute they have used as much water as a water bill indicates.

“We tracked one customer who was provided with a water meter monitor who was using 50,000 gallons of water a month,” Francom said. “Now that customer is down to using 10,000 gallons a month.”

The water company spent $23,000 on the new meter reading system last year, which included the software for the system and the laptop computer used to take the actual readings while CWC workers drive down the street.

One booster was installed on top of a hill in the Highlands to enable workers to read some meters. In other areas workers were able to read some meters from a street away.
Francom estimates the cost of the new system can be recouped in a year.