Chicago meter readers will soon have the technology to measure water by driving down the street instead of walking up to each home. City officials reported to the Chicago Tribune that a new $40 million program has been put in place to install electronic transmitters in 162,000 commercial and residential properties.
This three-year program of converting manual-read meters is the beginning of an effort to install meters in homes and small apartment buildings that don't already have them.
The new plan to put meters in the 325,000 homes and small apartment buildings where water flows are not currently metered will come at a later time.
The city has required water meters on industrial, commercial and big residential buildings for decades. The Chicago Tribune reports that since 1978, the devices have been required on newly built or substantially rehabilitated homes. However, older houses and small apartment properties are billed twice a year for water based on a formula that takes into account such things as the size of the building.
In 2003, Mayor Richard Daley addressed the issue of meters as part of a strategy to improve conservation and better manage Lake Michigan.
The process of universal metering is expected to take from 5 to 10 years to complete. While no figures were given on the cost, a 1994 study estimated the expense at up to $347 million.
The first phase will start next month with crews putting electronic reader components on existing meters in portions of the city’s north sides. This new technology will allow Water Management Department employees to drive around with laptop computers on their rounds and simply download readings.
Currently, workers must take readings manually at locations outside of buildings and, in some cases, in basements. If the property owners are not home, then they receive estimated bills.