Gerry Wilkinson has worked for the City of Wichita Falls for 22-years now.
Working his way up from a meter reader to now — where he is currently the meter shop supervisor, which means when residents dispute their water bill, Wilkinson tests the water meter to make sure there is not a problem there.
Now his job is even busier as the city works to convert the old meters with new digital smart meters.
“Well, with the old system, customers would call up and say they have a problem with their meter — it’s got a leak somewhere. I’d send my guys out to do it. Now, when they call in they have a lot more questions because everything is electronic so my guys have to literally go out there and do takeover with the hand-held computer to analyze what’s wrong with it,” Wilkinson said.
Blake Jurecek, the city’s information technology and facilities director, says the company replacing their 34,000 mechanical meters installs about 300 new meters per day.
The new meters use an electromagnetic flow measurement system and automatically transmit readings through a radio frequency.
“The whole system is a smart metering system. But the meters really aren’t any smarter — it’s just the way we are delivering them is smarter and it makes us a little smarter when we are looking at the data,” Jurecek said.
Officials say the new meters are also more accurate — 99 percent accurate during what is billed as a 20 year life span, which means more accurate readings — and that means potentially more revenue.
Old, out of date meters meant money was leaking out of the water department’s coffers.
“And they decided that the new technology that’s available would over the long-run increase our revenue,” Chris Arnold, Water Distribution Superintendent, said.
“It’s not that we are trying to charge more for the water — we’re just charging more accurately for what being used,” Jurecek said.
Overall, officials said bills have stayed pretty steady during the changeover as well — though a couple of years removed from one of the worst droughts in the city’s history, residents are starting to use a little more water.
And the city’s billing manager said the new meters will make her job explaining water usage a little easier.
“Now, I can pull up a graph and say: Ok guys, look here’s the deal…. you were doing great until this day and all of the sudden — you have continuous usage from this day,” Azura Kerr, Billing Manager, said.
New technology making the usage of water and paying for it smarter.
The city can access an hour by hour look at each customer’s usage with the new system — an online portal that customers will soon have access to as well.
And ditching the old billing system and mechanical meters is something that city workers like Wilkinson do not seem to mind to leave behind.
“I like it, yes, yes. ‘Cause it ensures that the meter is accurate,” Wilkinson said.
Because they are now working with something that ensures more truthful measuring for decades to come.
With the new meters, the city can now access an hour by hour look at customer’s water usage.
It is an online portal that will soon be available to residents as well sometime this summer.
The new meters also means the days of meter readers walking their beat to read those old meters are coming to an end — those jobs have either changed or many employees just moved to other areas of work within the city as needed.
Jurecek said the more accurate readings should allow this $16.5 million project to pay for itself over time.