New automated water meters are now in place for more than 96% of San Francisco’s 178,000 water accounts. The new technology transmits hourly water consumption data to our billing system by wireless network, and we are the first major water utility in California to fully deploy it. This reliable and frequent water usage information allows you to monitor use and detect leaks faster than possible with the existing manually-read meters. Our representatives are already assisting callers with the automated meter data, and a new web portal to provide customers with secure access to their billing and meter reading will be online Spring 2014 .
Automated Water Meter FAQ’s
1. How do Automated Water Meters work?
We have deployed the Aclara Fixed Network AMI STAR® System, using a wireless fixed network system that has three components:
- Meter Transmission Unit (MTU): This radio unit is factory connected to each automated water meter and collects your meter reading each hour. Every six hours, it sends its information to a Data Collection Unit.
- Data Collection Unit (DCU). A total of 81 Data Collectors are located throughout the city on our facilities and City-owned poles and rooftops to transmit the meter readings to the SF Water, Power and Sewer’s AWMP database.
- AWMP Database: The SFPUC billing system will use this information to calculate the amount of water used and create bills. Spring 2014, the data collected daily in the AWMP database will also be made available on our My Account website.
2. How are the readings transmitted through the system?
The meter readings are encrypted and sent through the automated network using a private radio frequency (RF) channel from the meter box to the data collectors, and using a cellular data network from the data collectors to the AWMP database. The signals used to transmit data from Automated Water Meters are much weaker than those from many everyday devices, such as cell phone and baby monitors. In addition to being very low power, Automated Water Meters transmit radio signals only once every 6 hours, with each transmission lasting less than one-tenth of a second.
We have partnered with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to complete an evaluation of RF transmission levels associated with the Automated Water Meter System. This evaluation confirmed that the signals used in Automated Water Meter technology are well below government limits with respect to human exposure to RF energy. The full report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
3. What are the benefits of the Automated Water Meter system?
The Automated Water Meter system will directly benefit us and our customers. The system reduces our operating costs for meter reading and billing, and improves customer service through:
- Frequent transmission of more precise water consumption data allowing for quicker and more precise identification of high usage and suspected leaks
- Call resolution improvement–customer service representatives will have access to more frequent and accurate water consumption data
- Improved meter reading ability, virtual elimination of any bill estimations
In addition to being reliable and accurate, your new meter will be more precise. The automated water meters measure water consumption on a daily basis and at 100 times the precision level of manual readings.
4. What information will be transmitted, and is my account information secure?
The automated water meter system transmits only the water meter readings, the meter identification number, and diagnostic information to verify that the automated meter equipment is operating correctly. Personal customer information is not transmitted as it is not a part of the meter information or reads. For additional security, the data is encrypted and transmitted over a privately licensed RF channel.
5. Will I see my bill go up?
Whenever a new meter is installed, either an automated water meter or a manual read water meter, there is a chance that your bill may increase. Prior to the automated meter reading system upgrades, most of the water meters in San Francisco were more than 20 years old, and at the end of their functional life. As meters age, their accuracy begins to decline. The new meter will accurately reflect your consumption. The SFPUC has also moved to monthly billing using the AWMP reading system which will help customers monitor usage more closely along with the new My Account portal launching Spring 2014.
6. Will I be able to see my water usage online?
A customer web interface is being developed so that with Internet access you will be able to monitor your daily water usage data online. A Customer Service Representative will be able to discuss the data with you. We anticipate that the launch of this interface will take place Spring 2014.