Toowoomba Regional Council is preparing to roll out smart water meters and has posted a Request for Proposal for the latest technology to the open market. 

Water and Waste Committee Chair, Cr Rebecca Vonhoff, said the Request for Proposal will ensure that commercial providers can meet council’s requirements.

“The smart water meters will bring significant benefits,” Cr Vonhoff said.

“The meter replacement program will allow for advanced analytics and help balance the entire water network which means council will be able to operate a more efficient network and assist in early detection of leaks and breaks in the network. It is essential that all points out of the system are monitored.

“The current manual meter reading occurs every six months, subject to access to the meter. By moving to automated meter readings both council and residents will be able to monitor more closely their water usage.

“It is expected that the meters will provide close to real-time readings depending on how often the data is downloaded into the system, with residents able to use a web portal and/or an app on a device to check their usage. 

“If they don’t have a computer or smartphone, then nothing will change from their perspective and they will receive their meter readings as usual.

“Residents will be able to review their data and see what activities around the property are high water consumption activities and reduce the chance of bill shock. 

“If properties have an underground leak, the meters will also help with early detection.”   

Cr Vonhoff said there were a number of technologies available in the market, and a detailed technical evaluation of all the options presented would be carried out to determine which is the most cost-effective for the community and council.

“A short-listing process with a final recommendation is expected to go to council for a decision on awarding a tender in November this year,” Cr Vonhoff said.

“Council expects that meter replacements will begin early next year with preliminary data flowing by Easter 2021. 

“The entire rollout is expected to take three to four years.

“The full cost to implement will not be known until a technical assessment has been undertaken during the tender process, however council’s 2020/21 Capital Works program has approved $2 million for stage one.  

“The smart meter is designed to read the water flow through the street connection to the property and time stamp this flow rate back to a database. 

“It does not provide any further details about the property or its residence, and all data will be secured and stored in Australia under our data sovereignty laws.”

Water and Waste Committee Portfolio Leader, Cr Nancy Sommerfield, said smart meters were being used in many local government areas and have been used in Australia for nearly two decades.

“It is only now with improved battery reliability and communication networks that council believes the benefits of smart metering will provide an acceptable return on investment, along with the potential for ratepayers to save water costs by being able to monitor their use regularly,” Cr Sommerfield said.

“The proof of concept is the first stage of meter installations and, in line with best-practice governance procedures, council will have a series of milestones in place to check progress before proceeding to full implementation.

“A number of locations and customer types (residential, industrial and commercial) will be chosen so that the full range of the network is tested from end to end as well as Toowoomba city itself. 

“There will also be an expression of interest for community members who would like to take part in the first round. Further details will be available once the vendor has been chosen.”

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