New technology will make water utility workers’ lives easier - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

New technology will make water utility workers’ lives easier

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Eau Claire (WQOW)- The city of Eau Claire is in the process of a water meter upgrade; one that will enhance efficiency for the city.  It's called automatic meter reading.  WQOW wondered how it works and what options you have as a resident. 

81-year-old Audry Parker made headlines earlier this month when she refused to allow the city of Baraboo install a smart-water meter in her home.  She wasn't sold on the device and felt it was an invasion of privacy.  So the city shut off her water.

"Well obviously it hasn't been good if you haven't got any water, little tiny things you get used to," Parker says.  "But I can buy bottled water.  I can shower at my daughter's house and do laundry."

In Eau Claire, we've seen the same sort of push to incorporate the system. 

"We have about 40 percent of the system already changed over into the new radio devices," points out Utilities Administrator Jeff Pippenger.

The new technology means city workers don't even have to go onto your property to check your water.

"All they have to do is walk on the sidewalk and the readings will actually wake up the radio device and it will dump the meter reading that is currently on the meter into this device," Pippenger explains.

He says it will save workers a lot of time; time they can now spend working on other city projects.

"Currently with our system now, it takes us two to three weeks with two to three people reading the system," Pippenger responds.  "With the new technology once it is fully implemented, we will see one employee be able to read the entire city in a day."

Parker didn't have the option to opt out in Baraboo, but here in Eau Claire, you do.  But it's going to cost you.  Though right now, how much isn't clear.

"We haven't figured that out yet.  If they live on the farther reaches of the city, it might be a little bit more," says Pippenger.  "But we'll keep track of the time and the amount of overhead cost that we'd have and that would be put right onto the utility bill."

The city says water meters need to be changed out every 10 years.  If you haven't been contacted by the city yet to have yours changed, that will come when that time period is up.  The city says it has only received one call so far about opting out, but that person just called to ask. They haven't decided to opt out.

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