Digital water meters installed in Vienna

VIENNA – Vienna residents are getting new water meters installed at their homes.

The water meter changeover replaces the city’s water meters with digital versions that are designed to save everyone time and money, officials said.

Vienna is the first city in West Virginia to switch over to a digital water meter system, officials said.

Installation of the digital water meters began Monday. It is being performed by local public works employees.

This will save Vienna residents more than $600,000 in installation costs that an outside company would have charged, said Vienna Director of Public Works Craig Metz.

Officials expect the replacement of every water meter in Vienna to be completed by June 2014. Weather permitting, 50-60 meters can be replaced every day, Metz said.

Replacement of the water meter will temporarily disrupt water service to the home, Metz said. Residents will be notified in person by a city worker when it is their turn to have the meter replaced, he said.

“The service disruption will only take three to five minutes, and happen entirely outside the home,” Metz said.

Residents can resume using their water immediately once the new meter is installed. There is no need to flush the lines after the installation.

Each water meter is hooked up to the city network, and changes in water use are reported back to the main office on a daily basis, Metz said.

The network operates by sending a signal through local towers, which relays information to the public works office every day, Metz said. “Now that it is electric, there is no need for physical readings to be taken anymore,” he said.

The new water meters can be read at any time, allowing workers to collect readings in large chunks instead of having to visit every residence each month.

This new water meter system will send special alerts to the office whenever a large amount of water is used in a home, Metz said. The system will issue a report for any sustained water usage that could turn out to be a leak.

“With the old system, when we only took readings once a month, we wouldn’t know if someone had a leak,” Metz said.

Leaks that happened in the middle of the month could go unnoticed for weeks, and residents would be responsible for paying for the lost water, he said.

“These meters will actually indicate on a 24-hour basis if a residence had a leak the night before,” Metz said. The system reports the suspected leak to public works, which allows city workers to call the home and ask if the higher water use was intentional.

If the water use was not intentional, residents know within 24 hours that they have a leak in their home.

Running toilets and faucets left dripping to avoid frozen pipes are enough to trigger a leak alert, Metz said.

This should not discourage residents from taking the precautions needed to avoid frozen pipes this winter, he said.

The system will show the precise time that water began leaking.

“If they say they didn’t use the water, (we) can look and see that water started running at 2 o’clock in the morning,” Metz said.

If the resident says otherwise, then the presence of a problem can be identified quickly.

Vienna’s three public workers, who once read the old meters, will not be out of work.

The new system will allow these employees to run maintenance on valves and pumps throughout the city, Metz said.

Much of this maintenance is overdue, according to officials.