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New meters may flag water leaks

By Staff | Dec 26, 2019

The city of Cape Coral is currently in the midst of a pilot program that gives some residents an hour-by-hour breakdown of their water consumption.

In July, the city installed a long-range meter collector on a utility pole on Pelican Boulevard, near the fire station, that has the capability to instantly read meters in a 2-mile circumference of the area.

This was also part of a mass residential meter change around the city to a newer, more updated technology.

“We can get reads every hour,” said Cape Coral’s Assessment and Billing Manager Holly Goyette. “The data feeds to the city, and we can proactively contact people with unusual consumption readings.”

For example, if you have a leak in your water system and you are unaware, the meter can catch a spike in your water usage that day. Homeowners with older meters would not see their useage until the end of the month — potentially costing an exorbitant amount of money, and potentially having a leak spew for 29 days.

The new technology is currently reading 3,800 meters in the vicinity. Goyette said if the city were to decide to continue to implement these collectors, they would focus on densely populated areas to be able to read the highest number of meters possible in the distance covered.

This also eases the burden of utility crews going around doing readings “by hand.”

Goyette said the city has already received positive feedback from customers who were made aware of a leak or unusual readings from the collector.

“It adds an improved level of customer service,” she added. “Down the road, if we choose to pursue this technology, customers would be able to log in and see their own consumption and even set monthly thresholds that would alert them if they have exceeded, or are on track to exceed, their target monthly usage.”

The six-month trial is coming to an end. Goyette said she will meet with the city’s utility director, city manager and other officials to discuss what the next steps will be.

“We can see what it did over the six months,” Goyette said. “We can see how much of an effect it had — how much did it help people? Then we will reconvene and decide how to proceed.”

Goyette said this technology can also be implemented with other readings, such as parking meters and letting a driver know when his garbage truck is full.

For one Cape Coral resident, the collection of utility data at his home saved him from what could have been costly repairs and expenditures.

Nelson Struck was shocked when the city called him and told him he was using more water than normal — something the meter and the city’s team picked up on.

Turned out his koi pond in his backyard was overflowing without his knowledge.

“We had no idea we had a leak,” Struck said. “I was very happy to hear from the city — it enabled me to fix the situation.”

All in all, it took only Struck 10 minutes to remedy the situation after doing some research.

“And two of those were spent putting my shoes on,” he joked.

Struck said it saved him at least $100, maybe more. With an older meter and without the long-range collector, Struck could have seen his pond leak for days on end, costing him, and his wallet, money in unnecessary water usage.

Stuck said he hopes the city will continue to offer this service to its residents and expand the technology.

“This is a service that truly benefits people here,” he said. “It can also reduce unnecessary water runoff. Any drop of water saved is a positive in my eyes.

“Whoever brought this program to the city, and whoever decided to implement it, deserves kudos.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj