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Southlake Style

Smarter Water

Aug 02, 2016 03:20PM ● By Ashley Pape

Legendary business visionary, educator and author Peter Drucker once said: “What gets measured, gets managed.” It’s sage wisdom—and not just in the boardroom. On the heels of last summer’s water woes (Remember when Southlake and other Tarrant County cities got slammed with sky-high water bills?), the City of Southlake is helping citizens track their water usage. The goal? Encourage conservation of this precious resource—for the benefit of the environment and our wallets.

Since May, crews have been enhancing more than 10,000 water meters around the city with cellular technology. These smart meters give residents and business owners instant access to their water accounts, keeping everyone educated on their water use. A cellular communication device, called an end point, transmits water readings every hour through cell towers in the area, allowing customers to track water usage both weekly and monthly in real-time. Unsure if crews have been through your neighborhood? See the map on the next for a projected timeframe.

Giving the city’s water meters a high-tech edge has indeed been a massive project, according to Southlake Mayor Laura Hill. “Installation of the upgraded equipment for over 10,000 customers is a huge undertaking,” she says. “But we have a good plan, and we are communicating heavily with our residents and businesses.”

There’s even a smartphone element to the project. Badger Meter, the Southlake Water Utilities’ chosen meter distributor, developed EyeOnWater, an app that allows citizens remote viewing of their water usage. Residents can also get an alert when their usage exceeds a certain amount. 

With water data at their fingertips, it’s easy for citizens to discern when water is wasted due to a running toilet or leaky faucet. More knowledge gives homeowners a heads up to make those maintenance repairs to stop wasting water—and reduce their water bills as a result.

So, why is this change coming now? Hill explains that heavy water use can result in the city’s paying high peaking charges, which is a premium that Southlake’s water provider charges. 

“Our goal is to partner with our water customers—business and residential,” says Hill. “Together, we can manage use during peak demand, and hopefully everyone can benefit from dodging those peaking charges.”

Water rates are tiered in order to encourage water conservation, according to Southlake Water Utilities. When your water consumption increases, the cost per 1,000 gallons goes up. So if you have a residential 1” meter, the second tier reflects consumption of 2,001 to 10,000 gallons at a rate of $5.08 per 1,000 gallons. Any water use 10,001 gallons or more is charged at a higher rate. By monitoring your consumption throughout the month, you can see when you are using the most water and make small changes to cut consumption and avoid going up a price tier. Keeping track of your consumption yourself leads to assurance that the meter is recording your water usage accurately, so you avoid overcharges. 

“Our users get to control their own usage,” says Hill. “They are in control, hour by hour. The city also reduces the possibility of meter-reading errors and increases efficiency. Imagine how quickly you will realize if there is a problem on your property like a pool leak or broken sprinkler system—or a family member who loves long, summer showers.” 

CONSERVING WATER IN SOUTHLAKE—AND THE STATE

This new water-conservation technology is part of a larger statewide initiative. According to the Texas Water Development Board’s website, the board adapted a 2017 state water plan so Texans will have enough water in the future to sustain cities and rural communities, farms and ranches, and homes and businesses while also preserving Texas’ agricultural and natural resources. 

And considering that Texas’ population will only continue to grow, water management strategies aren’t just smart; they’re necessary. The plan projects our state’s population will increase more than 70 percent by 2070. As a result, it outlines more than 5,500 water management strategies to ensure Texans have suitable and cost-effective water supplies now and in the future. 

The City of Southlake is implementing the change at no additional cost to citizens. Once your smart water meter is installed, you can download the EyeOnWater app and start tracking your water usage. 

“Residents are so tech-savvy and, when given the chance to manage their own water use, even down to the hour, I think they are really going to embrace it,” says Hill. “As a city, this is just one more way for us to partner with our residents and business owners to improve everyone’s quality of life.”

Being smarter with water doesn’t just involve water meters—it means staying educated on water usage. The Water Smart, Southlake blog provides useful tips and advice for all things related to responsible water use. Tips, pointers and facts are also posted on the city’s Facebook page as well as in citywide communications. 

“We are working hard to educate people about their water usage,” explains Hill. “We are so excited about what this project will mean to all our citizens, not to mention the environment. It’s going to to be a real eye-opener for how much water gets used in my own home and business.”

No matter how essential it is, water is something often taken for granted. And in the summer months, extra water usage can take a toll on the environment and residents’ wallets. Southlake’s water meter enhancement project makes it easier than ever for citizens to stay informed about their water usage. All it takes is downloading an app—and maybe a family ban on extra-long showers.