COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's official. A plan to replace water meters for all City of Columbia customers secured funding as city council voted to approve a new budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st.
Officials within the Department of Utilities and Engineering have been pushing the idea of Advance Meter Infrastructure or AMI, to both council and customers for the last year. They say it could curb the 10,000 billing complaints the department receives each year.
The project's estimated to cost about $49 million.
AMI is the newest technology in smart meters, replacing the old analog versions in municipalities across the country. With AMI technology, water usage is transmitted to one of several collector sites, which then feed the data back to the water department.
Unlike now when meters are read monthly, usage will be sent from each home to the city multiple times a day.
According to project managers, replacing meters will improve customer service and reputation, operational efficiency, social and environmental factors. They also claim it puts Columbia one step closer to becoming a "smart city."
The fixed network that allows meters to transmit information to collector towers could eventually be used to support smart street lighting, trash collection, and parking.
City leaders hope they explore those options and roll out several over the next 20 years.
The first meters will be installed slowly starting in June 2018. The city says it will steadily ramp up installations, eventually installing 6,000 a month to reach its goal of total replacement by 2020.
The city has also released two videos for customers. One is to help explain to customers how to track their water usage:
The second video is how to troubleshoot high water usage: