Smart Water Meter Program

Diagram of how smart water meters work.Starting next year, Bellevue Utilities will begin changing out water meters around the city at residences and businesses with new Smart Water Meters. We've created a list of answers to questions we think customers may have. We invite you to contact us if would like more information.

Why is Bellevue Utilities installing Smart Water Meters?

The current manual meter reading program faces the following challenges:

  • Customers currently only have access to their water usage information once every two months.
  • The existing meter reading system does not allow for timely detection of water leaks.
  • 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. Smart Water Meters wirelessly transmit customer water usage every day to a central data warehouse. This secured, encrypted data will be accessible to customer service representatives and to customers through an Online Customer Portal.

Water meter readers will no longer need to visit homes and businesses to manually record information every two months.

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

Bellevue Utilities expects most meter installation to take place in 2018-2019. We will be communicating with all our customers before, during and after the installation process. Look to this website, your billing newsletter, and for mailers as sources of information.

Will my Smart Water Meter installation be disruptive?

Bellevue Utilities wants you to know for most customers the impacts from installation will be minimal.

Replacing the water meter requires a short interruption to water service. Most installs will take less than 15 minutes.

You will be sent a notice prior to your install 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 will all our customers before, during, and after the city-wide installation process. Look to this website, your billing newsletter, and for mailers as sources of information. Questions about the program can also be directed to SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov.

How can Smart Water Meters save me money?

The Smart Water Meter program will allow leaks to be discovered and the affected customer to be notified much more quickly than what 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 in the hundreds to thousands of dollars.

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. With the portal you can look at how much water you are using on a daily basis and make adjustments in your water use habits 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 meter nor is it sent through the wireless network. Only the meter number and the amount of water a customer uses will be sent through the wireless network.

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 protect 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.

Will Bellevue use my water consumption data for anything other than billing and leak detection?

Bellevue Utilities takes the privacy of your information seriously.

Beyond billing and leak detection, Bellevue Utilities will only use customer consumption in the planning, maintenance and development of your city water system. As Bellevue grows and changes in the future, the Smart Water Meter Program will allow us to create a water system that is flexible, reliable and meets our customers’ needs.

How do the radio frequency levels from Smart Water Meters compare to other household devices?

Smart Water Meters use low-energy radio frequency waves to send customers’ water-use information through a secure wireless network. The 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 meters transmit at lower energy levels than most of these devices. Compared with other common devices that use radio frequency technology, Smart Water Meters are located far away – typically outside near the street. Additionally, Smart Meters only transmit information for about a minute a day. The result is much lower radio frequency exposure than many common household electric devices.

Are Smart Water Meters safe?

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 at one foot from the meter are about 1,500 times below the exposure limits (Richard Tell Associates, Inc., 2013).

Your new Smart Water Meter will be located where your current meter is – at a significant distance outside your home.

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

The cost of Smart Water Meters will not be passed onto the customer. There 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 because there will no longer be a need for water meter readers to visit your home to manually read meters, as well as more accurate reading of customer water use. There will no rate increase to cover the cost of the Smart Water Meter system.

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.

How will Smart Water Meters benefit the environment?

Today, meter readers drive more than 50,000 miles throughout the service area annually to record customer data. That represents 50 tons of CO2 emissions.* With fewer meter-reading vehicles on the road, Bellevue Utilities carbon foot print will be greatly reduced for meter reading activity.

*Average odometer reading of Meter Reader Jeep: 42,000 (in service 4 years). Average fuel usage per Meter Reader Jeep years 2014 and 2015: 1008 gallons per year. Miles per year: 42000/4 years in service x 5 Jeeps = approximately 50,000 combined annual miles. One gallon of gasoline burned = 19.6 pounds of CO2. 1008 gallons of gas per year x 5 jeeps = 98,784 pounds or approximately 50 tons of CO2.
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