City looking to move forward with water meter upgrade program

WICHITA, Kansas – The city is currently two years into a five year plan to replace all the residential water meters across Wichita.

The water meter upgrade program was first initiated in 2012, when the city council approved $16.4 million to be put towards the first two years of the project.

So far, National Meter & Automation, the contractor for the upgrade has begun replacing all the old automated systems that were originally installed.

Those meters were put in about 10 years ago and accounted for about 35-percent of the 150,000 residential water meters.

Dave DalSoglio, the project manager for National Meter & Automation says his crews will now move to replacing the manually read meters.

“The next three years we’ll be doing residential meters that are not AMR, they’re manually read meters,” said DalSoglio.

Altogether the capital improvement project will cost $32 million to complete.

Joe Pajor, the Deputy Director for Public Works & Utilities for the city of Wichita says several factors went into the decision to replace the water meters.

One reason was that many of them weren’t accurately reading the amount of water households were using.

“We’re averaging about 29% in terms of those reading lower than what they should be reading,” said Pajor

Pajor says this upgrade won’t cause an across the board water rate hike, but correcting the problem could leave some individuals seeing their water bills slightly increase.

“If a customer had a meter that wasn’t recording properly, all the water that they were using, the new meter will capture and it could result in higher bills to that particular customer,” said Pajor.

The new meters will also be more cost effective and efficient for the city.

DalSoglio says normally a walking crew could read up to 300 meters in one day.

With the new automated meters, a mobile crew with one person will be able to read them through a radio.

“One mobile reader can go out and read 5 to 7 thousand in a day,” said DalSoglio.

The project is expected to generate about $46 million in additional revenue for the city over the next 10 years.

That’s a 41% return on the city’s investment.

Pajor says the new revenue would be put toward other capital improvement projects.

On Tuesday, the city council will discuss approving the remaining $16.2 million to finish the project.

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