Selma Water plans complete meter overhaul

Published 1:28 am Thursday, February 27, 2014

By the end of 2014, every Selma Water Works customer will have a new water meter.

The Selma Water Works and Sewer Board will open bids Tuesday for furnishing water meters and installing water meters. A third set of bids will be opened to repaint a 500,000-gallon water tank in Selfield Industrial Park. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $2.56 million, according to Selma’s engineering consultant Ray Hogg.

The project is funded entirely by a loan through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Hogg said half of the loan will be forgiven meaning the water board won’t have to pay approximately $1.28 million.

Email newsletter signup

Approximately 8,300 water meters are included in the bid package. It’s the first time Selma Water Works has replaced all of its meters. The meters provide a significant technical advantage over the current meters, water board chairman Lee Goodwin said.

“Instead of a man having to physically go out to read a meter, he can take an electronic reading from a four-block radius,” Goodwin said. “What would normally take one man two or three days could now be done in one day.”

Hogg said the meters would also allow the water board to notify customers if a leak exists in their pipes.

“If the water runs continuously for a period, usually set at 72 hours, it will trigger an alert that the customer potentially has a leak in their system,” he said. “For example, most people don’t usually use water at 3 a.m. So if water is running continuously for three days, even in the early morning, the water board will be able to tell that something is wrong.”

The water board hasn’t received any bids yet, but Hogg said he isn’t concerned, as many companies wait until hours before the deadline to prevent competitors from gaining any advantage. After a bid is selected, a contract will be signed within 30 days.

Hogg said the meters should be fully operational in five months, at the longest.

The meters are also expected to provide more accurate readings, and possibly increase revenue flowing into Selma Water Works.

Meters become less accurate with age, Hogg said. After several decades of use, meters wear down and become less than 100 percent accurate, but always in the customers favor, he said.

As the meters are installed, Hogg said customers would experience a brief interruption in service — no longer than an hour — for workers to install the new meters. The meter installation is expected to take place during the day as to affect as few customers as possible, Hogg said.

The water meter project marks the end of a nearly 10-year process to replace water meters, many of which are 50 to 60 years old, Goodwin said.

“With the technical advantage and us having to pay back only half of the total loan amount, all of this is really a great deal,” Goodwin said. “It is going to be more efficient for the water board. Customers really shouldn’t notice too much of a difference, other than a more accurate reading.”