BY: Warren Tenney

Tempe Gets WaterSmart with New Automated Metering System

Published May 20, 2019

The City of Tempe has become the first in the Valley to utilize a fully automated system to read and bill all residential customer water meters. The new system records how much water a home uses every hour, in real time, which will benefit not only the water utility, but also residents who will be able to track their own water use. In addition, it means a monthly visit from a meter reader to manually record each household’s water use will no longer be required.

Typically, there are two common ways many Valley cities read water meters electronically. The first - an employee drives past each home and a computer inside the vehicle reads each meter. The second - a water department employee drives into a neighborhood, parks a specially equipped van on a street or in a parking lot, and uses a computer to read each water meter within a half-mile or so. Some cities use a combination of these electronic systems, which are called Automatic Meter Reading (AMR).

Tempe tested but never committed to either of these AMR methods and remained one of the few Valley cities where employees still manually read water meters. The City of Tempe has now taken a giant leap to utilize this fully automated system that relies on a series of “collectors and repeaters” installed mainly on light poles that read and relay water use from Tempe’s more than 43,000 water meters. It’s called Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

Tempe has officially finished connecting all residential meters to the system, so now they are focusing on community outreach to let residents know about how this upgraded technology can help them save water and money.

A team of staff from the City of Tempe Water Conservation Program has been busy hitting the streets and local neighborhoods to showcase the new WaterSmart Online Water Use Portal as well as share additional resources and information including available rebates.

The new software program brings many benefits to residents by making the detailed water use data available on their computers, tablets and cellphones.

Here is some of the information Tempe residents will have at their fingertips. 

  • Hourly Water Consumption: Customers will be able to monitor their water use in real time and determine their own peak uses throughout the day. They will know how much water is used when operating the irrigation system or when doing laundry. Even better, customers will see how much water is saved when they fix irrigation system leaks, convert more yard to desert adapted landscape, or adjust irrigation times during cooler seasons. The system will use the information to build charts showing your household’s daily, weekly and annual water use and to compare gallons per day (gpd).
  • High Usage and Leak Detection: A vigilant consumer will be able to find and fix water leaks quickly. If a consumer sees water being used in themiddle of the night when everyone is asleep, it will be clear that the household is paying for water no one is using. It may be draining from a silently leaking toilet, a broken irrigation line or a water softener recycling too many times. The city will eventually be able to turn on automatic leak alerts so a customer is notified via voicemail, text and/or email when the system detects a leak. 
  • Part of the Solution: The site will compare your household water use to average water users in your neighborhood. This could let you know if your efforts to use water efficiently are paying off or if there is potential to save more. The site also will offer personalized tips on how to save water.
  • Pay Your Bill: This same portal will link you to the site where you can electronically pay your water bill each month. 

The City also will benefit from this new AMI system. For example, monthly bills are based on 30 days of water service, but that number can change. When meters are read manually, the number of days it takes to complete a route can vary because of unpredictable circumstances, such as sick days and rainy days. Adding one or two days of water usage to a bill can mean a noticeable increase in what customers pay that month. Fluctuating bills make it harder for customers to budget and often cause customer complaints and questions. The new system will provide Tempe with more accurate data within a uniform period of time, generating more consistent bills so there are fewer surprises, fewer errors and more transparency. 

Water conservation professionals already are using the AMI data to track the impact of the City’s water conservation incentive programs , such as rebates and water audits, and to contact customers who could benefit from the programs the City offers. For example, all water systems are built to accommodate a City’s annual peak water demand, which usually happens during June, July or August. This peak demand is generally driven by residential outdoor water use. Conservation and irrigation experts can provide homeowners with free water consultations or landscape water audits to help customers detect leaks and keep their yard thriving more efficiently.

So, if you reside in Tempe, visit the City’s website and social media to get additional information and learn more about how you can get direct access to your WaterSmart Online Water Use Portal. This will put the ability to save water and money at your fingertips.

For 50 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit .

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