Smart Water Meter Program

Diagram of how smart water meters work.Bellevue Utilities is updating outdated, manually-read water meters to a new, wireless-read technology. There will be no rate increase or surcharges a result of this project. It might even help you reduce your water consumption and save money.

Starting in spring 2018, Bellevue Utilities will begin replacing water meters at residences and businesses. Below, please find a list of frequently asked questions to help learn more about why we are making this change and how the technology can benefit you. We invite you to contact us if you would like more information at SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov.

Why is Bellevue Utilities installing Smart Water Meters?

The current manual meter reading program faces the following challenges:

  • The existing meter reading system does not allow for timely detection – or notification – of water leaks.
  • In fact, customers currently only have access to their water usage information once every two months.
  • Almost half of the existing meters are at, or approaching the end of, their useful life, and will need to be replaced.

To address these challenges, Bellevue Utilities is planning to upgrade all customer’s meters with Smart Water Meters.

What are Smart Water Meters and how do they work?

Smart Water Meters collect water use information just as today’s meters do.

Then, Smart Water Meters wirelessly transmit customer water usage every day to the Utility. This secured, encrypted data will be accessible to customer service representatives and to customers through an Online Customer Portal. (The timing of the Smart Water Meter installation and the launch of your online portal may differ.)

Water meter readers will no longer need to visit homes and businesses to manually record information every two months. Meanwhile, spotting leaks early through your Smart Water Meter’s online portal can save you time and money, because you can fix them more quickly than today.

This graphic shows you how Smart Waters Meters work:

Smart Water Meter diagram

When will my meter be upgraded to a Smart Water Meter?

Bellevue Utilities expects meter installations to take place in 2018 and 2019. We will communicate with all our customers before, during, and after the installation process. Look to this website, your billing newsletter, and mailers as sources of information for updates on when installation will occur in your home or business.

What can I expect when my Smart Water Meter is installed?

Bellevue Utilities wants you to know that, for most customers, the impacts from installation will be minimal. No home entry. No untrained staff. No worries.

We respect your time: Replacing the water meter requires only a short interruption to water service. Since the meter is outside, no one will need to come into your home. Your water will just need to be shut off briefly. Most installations will take less than 15 minutes.

You will be notified prior to your installation date, and an installer will knock on your door prior to the installation to let you know that they would like to switch your water meter. If you are not home, the installer will leave a door tag letting you know that your meter has been changed and who to contact if you have any questions or concerns.

Where can I learn more about Smart Water Meters?

Bellevue Utilities will be communicating with all our customers before, during, and after the city-wide installation process. Look to this website, your billing newsletter, and mailers as sources of information. Questions about the program can be directed to SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov.

How can Smart Water Meters save me money?

The Smart Water Meter program makes it easy to identify a leak and let the affected customer know about it much more quickly than was possible with manual meter reading. With manual meter reading, leaks could go undetected for weeks or months leaving customers responsible for paying bills that ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Your new Smart Water Meter will provide you with nearly real-time data about your water usage, and spotting leaks early can save you time and money.

Will I be able to see my water usage online?

As a part of the Smart Water Meter program, Bellevue Utilities will be launching an Online Customer Portal. (The timing of the Smart Water Meter installation and the launch of your online portal may differ. In general, your Smart Water Meter will be installed first.) With the portal, you will be able to manage your account, look at how much water you are using on a daily basis, and make adjustments in your water use habits as needed to save money.

How will Bellevue Utilities protect my privacy?

Bellevue Utilities is committed to protecting the personal information of our customers. Personally identifying information (such as name, address, or account number) is not stored in the Smart Water Meter nor is it sent through the wireless network. Only the meter number, the amount of water used, and information about the proper functioning of the equipment will be sent through the wireless network.

Additionally, installers will not enter your home, obtain your identification information, or have access to your online account and password, if you have one. Bellevue Utilities is serious about protecting the personal information of our customers.

Will my water-use information be secure?

Now that water-use information is sent through a wireless network, it is important that Bellevue Utilities maintains customer privacy and protects the network. The Smart Water Meter wireless network will have multiple layers of protection, similar to many online transactions. All transmitted information will be secure and protected through encryption within the network.

Personally identifying information (such as name, address, or account number) is not stored in the Smart Water Meter nor is it sent through the wireless network. Only the meter number and the amount of water used will be sent through the wireless network.

What will my water consumption data be used for?

Bellevue Utilities takes the privacy of your information seriously.

Beyond billing and leak detection, Bellevue Utilities will only use water consumption data to plan, maintain, and develop the city water system. As Bellevue grows and changes, the Smart Water Meter program will help us maintain a potable water system that is flexible, reliable, and able to meet our customers’ needs.

Are Smart Water Meters safe?

Yes. After extensive research and consultation with leading experts, Bellevue Utilities is confident Smart Water Meters are safe.

The science shows that radio frequency emissions typical of many common household devices, like Smart Water Meters, do not affect health (California Council on Science and Technology, 2011). Radio frequency emissions from Smart Water Meters are far below the limits set by the Federal Communications Commission. One study for the state of Vermont found that radio frequency levels for people standing one foot away from a meter are about 1,500 times below the federal exposure limits for radio frequency emissions. (Richard Tell Associates, Inc., 2013).

Smart Water Meters communicate information similarly to other common wireless devices such as cordless phones, baby monitors, garage door openers, WiFi routers, and cell phones. However, Smart Water Meters transmit at lower levels than most of these devices, are located further away – typically outside the home, near the street – and only transmit consumption data for less than one second per day. All told, the result is much lower radio frequency exposure than many common home appliances and personal electronics that customers use in their homes throughout the day.

How much will this new system cost customers? How is it being paid for?

The cost of Smart Water Meters will not be passed onto Bellevue Utilities’ customers. There will be no rate increase or surcharges as a result of this project.

The price of the new Smart Water Meter system is expected to be approximately $23 million. However, over the 20-year lifetime of the meter system, costs will be recovered. That’s because in addition to the benefits of early leak detection and the online portal, we also expect to see greater operational efficiencies and more accurate readings of water use.

Will Smart Water Meters cause my water bill to increase?

Smart Meters will ensure that customers are billed for the water they use – no more and no less.

Each new meter is tested and guaranteed to accurately record water consumption. If a customer’s old meter was under-recording, then they might see a bill increase with the new meter. Accurate meters ensure fairness and accuracy for all customers by correctly measuring water usage. If you are concerned about an increase in your water bill, please contact our customer service department at SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov so that we may address your concerns.

How will Smart Water Meters benefit the environment?

Smart Water Meters will mean fewer meter-reading vehicles on the road, thus reducing Bellevue Utilities’ carbon footprint. Today, meter readers drive more than 50,000 miles annually throughout the service area to record customer data. That represents 50 tons of CO2 emissions.*

*Average odometer reading of Meter Reader Jeep: 42,000 (in service 4 years). Average fuel usage per Meter Reader Jeep years 2014 and 2015: 1,008 gallons per year. Miles per year: 42,000/4 years in service x 5 Jeeps = approximately 50,000 combined annual miles. One gallon of gasoline burned = 19.6 pounds of CO2. Therefore, 1,008 gallons of gas per year x 5 Jeeps = 98,784 pounds or approximately 50 tons of CO2.

How do Smart Water Meters fit in to the City of Bellevue Smart Cities initiative?

Smart Water Meters are the first of many new Smart Cities initiatives, which will implement city-wide technologies that make use of near real-time data and integrate systems to make better use of existing data. Check out the Smart Cities website to learn more.
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