City leaders say the ultimate goal is really to have customers conserve in real-time, if possible.
“It’s really about customer education and giving them the tools to actually conserve energy,” said Community Development Director Michael Grochala. “We’re looking for a way to try to allow customers a way to cut back where they can, if provided the right tools and the right information.”
The city currently provides water to 17,000 people and 250 businesses at the rate of about 500 million gallons per years, said Grochala. He said new technology would outfit individual water meters with transmitters that would send data to a centralized radio receiver, perhaps atop one of the city’s water towers, that would then provide data to consumer’s online portals. They would, ostensibly, be able to see how much water they’re using pretty much every day.
“Right now, if you’re irrigating over the summer and you want to know how much you used, you’ll get that bill in October,” said Grochala. “By that time, it’s too late to conserve.”
City Council gave approval for city staff to seek a grant from the state to cover $200,000 of the cost to implement. That won’t be decided until the 2023 legislative session in St. Paul, said Grochala.
“We can adopt a lot of (water use) rules, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how much you’re using,” said Grochala.
He said new water meters would be distributed and then older meters would be updated as available should this program roll out.