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Opt-out policy for smart water meters

What are the things that puzzle, enrage, delight and tickle you as you go about your life in Madison?

Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby doppel » Fri Oct 12, 2012 1:15 pm

Stu Levitan wrote:
Stebben84 wrote: For fuck sake, these smart meters are being implemented across the country. It's called technology. I'm no fan of the mayor, but your conspiracy is silly.


Part of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aren't they?


Not if you are a meter reader.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby Ted » Fri Oct 19, 2012 1:21 pm

One reason for these meters is so they can bill every month now. The reasons for switching to monthly are:

"More accurate and timely consumption data will help MWU provide better customer service and help with water supply planning and overall system operation"
er, I guess, whatever

Also:
"Providing billing information to customers more frequently is becoming the norm in the industry, and our customers expect that information. Monthly billing assists customers in household budgeting, identifying leaks or other plumbing issues quicker, and reducing confusion by having billing practices similiar to that of other local utility companies."

I was perfectly happy with a 6 month bill paid by check, but now with the monthly cycle, I'll have to go to direct withdrawal. Maybe that's what this is about. Someone in this thread indicated they had an issue with the big 6 month bill. Well, it's the same amount of money either way, but I suppose if you have trouble budgeting, the monthly could be better. I wonder how many people really like more frequent bills if they are paying by check!

I'm not sure about the "leak" argument here. I assume they are saying if your toilet leaks, you are going to see enough of a bill hike in one month to cause you to check your toilet???

I guess I'm suspicious, but I wonder if there is a hidden monetary motive for this, like delinquent accounts or something.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby fennel » Fri Oct 19, 2012 1:29 pm

I don't think the motivation is hidden. I do think the City hasn't been forthright, that is, by neglecting to mention that the primary motivation is to increase cash flow.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby WestSideYuppie » Fri Oct 19, 2012 5:57 pm

I don't remember where it was, but I lived in one town where the customer read the meter and mailed in a little postcard every month. The meter reader came around sporadically to keep everybody honest. This could now be done online or by phone.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby snoqueen » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:00 pm

Madison did it that way for years. You got the little postcard, you went downstairs and drew the lines on the dials on the postcard so they matched the dials on your meter, and mailed it in. About twice a year they came by and read the meter in person to check.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby fennel » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:25 pm

snoqueen wrote:Madison did it that way for years. You got the little postcard, you went downstairs and drew the lines on the dials on the postcard so they matched the dials on your meter, and mailed it in. About twice a year they came by and read the meter in person to check.
Ann Arbor, too. And water wasn't typically a utility that was the responsibility of renters, so there was no incentive for them to get creative with meter readings.

But I wonder whether landlords will see monthly billing as an another opportunity to increase their margins. Does the City offer per-unit meters?
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby snoqueen » Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:38 pm

Buildings can be plumbed a million different ways, and older buildings (especially ones converted from a single unit into many) can have crazy-crazy old plumbing, shared water heaters, and strange runs of pipe to bring water into areas that were never part of the original plumbing layout.

In places like that, finding a way to locate a meter for each unit that didn't leave the person in Unit A paying for Unit B's shower would often be impossible.

In a perfect situation where each unit had its own single water supply pipe and its own water heater, maybe you could find a place to install a meter for each separate unit to replace one primary meter for the whole building. Doing the work might not be cost-effective, though, if you had to cut into walls and cut into pipes, and you'd probably need to.

In other words, the question would need to be answered building-by-building and unit-by-unit. It's not something the city could do with a blanket rule.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby Stebben84 » Sat Oct 20, 2012 6:54 pm

snoqueen wrote:n a perfect situation where each unit had its own single water supply pipe and its own water heater, maybe you could find a place to install a meter for each separate unit to replace one primary meter for the whole building.


I don't think this would work. I just had mine replaced and they tapped directly into the old meter. They put a new cap on it and then a line that ran to the new "smart meter" that was then mounted to the ceiling. It took the guy about 10 minutes.

From my rental experience, I only had to pay water at one and it was a house we shared. Most of the cut up houses only have one primary meter so you can't really charge for water unless you tack a fee onto the rent. I've never had that happen. I don't see why it would now.

I'll monitor my bills for the next six months and report back if I've been jacked.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby WestSideYuppie » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:13 pm

Stebben84 wrote:
snoqueen wrote:n a perfect situation where each unit had its own single water supply pipe and its own water heater, maybe you could find a place to install a meter for each separate unit to replace one primary meter for the whole building.


I don't think this would work. I just had mine replaced and they tapped directly into the old meter. They put a new cap on it and then a line that ran to the new "smart meter" that was then mounted to the ceiling. It took the guy about 10 minutes.

From my rental experience, I only had to pay water at one and it was a house we shared. Most of the cut up houses only have one primary meter so you can't really charge for water unless you tack a fee onto the rent. I've never had that happen. I don't see why it would now.

I'll monitor my bills for the next six months and report back if I've been jacked.


That makes sense. The bronze thingy with the flow sensor still works perfectly well, and all's they do is add a new data transmitter to it.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby fennel » Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:44 pm

Now that I think of it, it's surprising that the water utility went ahead with this without there being the ability to track usage by time of day. I mean, where is the data to surmise whether one's third-shift housemate is consuming an inordinate amount of water? Or whether your shifty neighbor is watering her garden via your spigot between 3 and 4 in the morning?
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:58 pm

fennel wrote:Now that I think of it, it's surprising that the water utility went ahead with this without there being the ability to track usage by time of day. I mean, where is the data to surmise whether one's third-shift housemate is consuming an inordinate amount of water? Or whether your shifty neighbor is watering her garden via your spigot between 3 and 4 in the morning?


Can I ask what's wrong with knowing your monthly water bills. What other bill that you receive is done every 6 months. Sure car insurance is, but you can also pay monthly and there is no difference. I just don't see the conspiracy.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby fennel » Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:48 pm

It's not a conspiracy, silly. It's the elimination of the option of the billing cycle while obscuring the primary reason with nonsense about consumer information. Do you imagine that this might have moved forward if the billing cycle wouldn't change?

This is the stuff of talking points for the Rs (except that, for once, it's not fabricated).
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby snoqueen » Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:13 am

Would you prefer paying your rent or mortgage every six months instead of monthly?

I don't get why this is a big deal at all.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby fennel » Sat Oct 27, 2012 2:13 pm

Clearly.
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Re: Opt-out policy for smart water meters

Postby snoqueen » Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:25 pm

Do you imagine that this might have moved forward if the billing cycle wouldn't change?


I do, in fact.

Automating processes like these has been happening in every part of both industry and government for decades. Why should we send someone out to read each individual meter when it can be automated? Once something CAN be done, it most often IS, which is unfortunate for the workers who used to do it by hand but that horse left the barn long ago. Do you want to go back to when we dialed O on our dial phones to talk to the operator?

I think monthly billing is perfectly acceptable for the majority of customers, who might well find it easier to budget for a monthly water bill than save up (obsolete concept, that) for a six-months bill.

And I still believe the new metering will allow the utility to better track and fix leaks in the water mains that are not part of someone's household plumbing, which will save a significant amount of water that is now lost in the system. Whether or not individual homeowners find useful the closer consumption tracking remains to be seen. Quite often, when data becomes available it turns out to be more useful than expected.

For now, I'm OK with your idea it's more or less a byproduct of the upgrade, but so what? I'd personally like to track all my utility usage more closely, and I already find gas and electric usage info valuable so I assume I'd find water data similar.
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