© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Akron Eyes $35 Million 'Smart' Water Meter System

Akron Water Department workers give a presentation
Akron water supply manager Jeff Bronowski (left) and meter reading supervisor Jerome McCall give a smart meter presentation to Akron City Council members.

The Akron Water Department is looking to install “smart” water meters across the city, enabling residents and businesses to monitor their water usage in real-time, potentially saving money.

The city said the 85,000 meters the water department installed about 15 years ago are starting to fail, costing about $200,000 a year in maintenance.

New, smart meters, which would cost an estimated $35 million, can be read through an online portal where customers can monitor their accounts and set alerts.

During a presentation to Akron City Council members, Akron water supply manager Jeff Bronowski said smart meters would increase billing accuracy. Smart meters use gallons instead of hundreds of cubic feet, which equates to 748 gallons.

“These meters that we have now measure in hundred cubic feet increments so what that means is they don’t read until you register 748 gallons,” he said. “The newest meters being offered in the industry have a gallon increment, which is a much tighter increment and is much more beneficial to the customer as well as the utility.”

Akron’s meter reading supervisor Jerome McCall said using gallons enables more precise readings.

“The meters themselves actually can be as granular as a tenth or hundredth of a gallon so when these customers are looking at alerts, you literally can watch and chalk your meter, you can use less than a gallon and actually see it on the meter,” he said. “That’s a pretty good benefit to customers.”

The smart system also can quickly identify water main breaks across the entire system, allowing the water bureau to more accurately repair lines and focus boil water advisories.

Akron officials will start a bidding process next week to determine the best way to make the switch and pay for the technology. They hope to begin updating the city’s system next year