AMI Upgrade to Water Metre Reading Devices

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Advanced Metering Infrastructure project?

This is a City initiative that will update its water meter reading system. The current reading device for water meters that is installed on the exterior of almost all homes and that records water consumption will be upgraded with newer automated meter reading technology. The new technology will automatically transmit water usage data of Ottawa businesses and residences directly into the City’s water billing system. Currently, water meters are read manually.

Why are the current water meter reading devices being upgraded?

Ottawa’s current water billing system is outdated and the technology of the existing equipment is nearing 20 years of age. At this time, water meters are only read manually about three times a year, which means at least three of the six annual water bills are estimates based on previous usage. This results in water bills that continually need adjustments. The new upgrade will install a device that automatically transmits water usage into the City’s water billing system, providing accurate billing every time rather than estimates.

Who benefits from this upgrade?

Both the City and its water customers:
Customers benefit in several ways: (1) estimated billing will be eliminated; billing will reflect actual water usage (2) City meter readers will no longer need to access customers’ side or backyards.
The City benefits from (1) reduced operational costs — the labour, vehicles and equipment now needed for manual reads.

What exactly is done to upgrade the water meters? Are they being replaced?

In most cases the existing water meter will not be affected. Only the meter reading device currently mounted on an exterior wall will be replaced with a new automatic transmitter. Since the new transmitters are larger than the existing meter-reading units, it may be necessary to relocate the device depending on space available. In some cases, the existing meter may need to be replaced or modified.

Does someone need to be home for the installation?

For the majority of upgrades no one needs to be home. The installation of the new transmitter is a simple 20-minute process that can be completed outside the home. However, there are some meters (because of their location or the way they have been wired) that will require entry to the home to complete the upgrade. These homeowners will receive notification from the City of Ottawa with details about scheduling an appointment.

Do customers need to schedule an appointment?

Most customers will not need to schedule an appointment. Appointments are only required if access to the existing wiring or water meter is needed to successfully replace the meter reading device. In these cases, residents will receive written notification on how and when to schedule an appointment to have their new meter reading device installed. For the majority of the upgrades, no appointment is necessary since the work will only take about 20 minutes and can be done outside the home.

Can I decline having the water meter reading device or water meter upgraded?

People with City water accounts cannot opt out of the project. There is no charge for this improved service.

I’ve received a notification from the City asking me to schedule an appointment. How long will the work take? How much will it cost?

If inside work is required, customers will receive written notification from the City of Ottawa. Customers who receive this notification will be required to respond within two weeks to schedule an appointment. It may take approximately one to two hours and could require turning off the water for a short period of time. There is no cost to the customer for the replacement of the new meter reading device.

When will the water meter reader installation program begin and how long will it take?

The City began to upgrade the water meter reading devices in its water billing program in June 2011. The work is expected to be complete by 2013.

Will customers be given notice in advance of work being done in their neighbourhood?

Yes, all residents will receive a letter from the City when the installation contractors are in their neighbourhood.

Who will be doing the upgrades and installations?

Through a competitive selection process, the City has retained Itron, a leading provider of smart metering, data collection and utility software systems. Itron has more than 8,000 utility customers worldwide using their technology.

How will the new meter reading device work?

The new device operates on a low-power frequency (similar to a cordless telephone) and will automatically transmit water meter readings to data receivers throughout Ottawa. These receivers will then transmit the relevant billing information through to the City’s water billing system, thereby eliminating the need for manual water meter reads.

Will the new device affect my water bill?

The new water meter reading devices will improve the billing process by eliminating estimated bills. Customers will continue to receive their water bills in the same schedule as prior to the upgrade.

Wasn’t my water meter already upgraded?

No. This is a municipal water meter program and is only getting started in June 2011. It should not be confused with Ontario’s Smart Meter Program, a provincial initiative that replaced older hydro meters with new ‘smart’ meters that allow customers to monitor their electricity usage.

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