As of August 24, 2020, the BGJWSC began transitioning to a more customer-friendly metering technology. In fact, you may be visiting this page after finding a notice hanging from your door knob. We’d like to share some details about this project with you here.
Answers to frequently asked questions are provided at the bottom of this page.
You can also view a live map that indicates where we’ve been working and where we’re heading next (click image below to view the full map in a new tab):
Please watch our short video regarding this project, the script of which is available in its entirety below it:
Details and History of our Metering System
The JWSC bills each of our customers using meter readings collected every 30 days. We have approximately 30,000 metered connections, none of which are ever averaged or estimated. Of those, close to 28,000 utilize a style of meter that transmits the reading over a radio signal that gets picked up when we drive by the meter. While this system is far more accurate and reliable than reading by hand, most were installed between 2004 and 2006, much beyond the 7 to 10 year predicted life span. At this point, the battery within the transmitter has reached the end of its useful life. Over 4,000 no longer transmit at all, which leads to delays in billing as the technician then has to read the meter by hand. Around 120 more of these transmitters die each month.
The meter register itself does not fail to function. It continues to turn and measure the water that flows thru it, much like the odometer in a car, but it takes considerably longer to read an increasing number of meters by hand each month, slowing down our ability to respond to other concerns, such as turn ons, emergency turn offs and service transfer requests. It also leads to overtime expenses that we’d like to avoid.
By the way, we do not doubt the accuracy of these meters. As any water meter ages, it becomes less accurate in your favor due to scaling from minerals that occur naturally in the water and also from wear on the moving parts. Overall, our meters have aged well over the last 16 years or so, with most still registering as much as 97 to 98 percent of what flows through them. So, our intent with this upgrade isn’t to chase after this 2 to 3 percent of flow that may be lost, though water conservation efforts are one of our chief missions. In fact, accounting for this loss is required by environmental oversight regulations enforced by the terms of our permitting with the US EPA. We want to partner with you as good stewards of this vital limited resource. While we have to bill what flows through the meter, we want to help ensure that the flow you are billed is what you actually consumed.
What are the Costs and Benefits of this Change?
The replacement of these meters is an expected cost of doing business that is already budgeted for within our existing rating structure. Beginning in late August of 2020, the JWSC will begin to roll out a new metering technology that will greatly increase our effectiveness and productivity. The most notable change is a shift to a more proactive alerting system to help you, as our service consumer, get advance notice of any flow that is outside of what you would normally expect to be billed.
One of the most common concerns we address in our customer service area is the sticker shock that is experienced when getting a bill that may be 2, 3 or even 10 times higher than usual. With this new system, you will be able to get a text message or email when your flow exceeds your set daily limit. That will give you plenty of time to grab the pipe wrenches or call a plumber before the problem gets too bad. In fact, over 60% of our leak adjustment requests are related to the replacement of a failing toilet bowl flapper that gets hung up. Much stress is caused by this simple $8 or $9 piece of rubber. I have personally experienced loss of about 45 thousand gallons in one month recently simply due to a toilet bowl flapper. Water loss is unavoidable on occasion as water likes to take the path of least resistance but we’d still like a better warning system than just reacting to a high bill.
Giving you this warning will also help increase our effectiveness in our customer service area. While I’m very pleased to report that we are better able to handle your requests by phone thanks to the creation of our dedicated call center two years ago, we’re still limited on how may technicians can respond in the field when a service request comes in.
Our meter services staff is made up of a supervisor, who dispatches the work orders and ensures a timely reading schedule, and four meter service technicians, who you’ll see driving through Glynn County daily to take care of our customers. As this project progresses, with about 7,500 meters being swapped out in the early months of each of the next four years, we will begin to reallocate the efforts of these four meter service technicians to make the best use of their time and talent. In fact, in an environment where the technical demands of the utility increase at the same pace as I’m sure they do in your own business or home, we are preparing these technicians to be able to serve a dual role in maintenance of the meters as well as maintenance of our IT assets. This will provide our staff with a more consistent support system for the hardware and software that is used to support both the administrative and the field staff at the JWSC.
How Long will this Project Take?
This first batch of meters will be limited to 250 so that our meter services, billing and customer service staff will be able to ensure that the setup works well for all of us. If you’re part of this pilot program, you may see our staff stop by to inspect or alter your meter setup to make way for our contractor, M&E Construction, to perform the work of replacing the meter in the box. We’ll also be installing a small device called a dual check back flow preventer that provides a required layer of protection should there be any risk of contaminants at your point of use that could pose a potential hazard to the rest of our customers. Once your connection has been updated, you’ll find a door knob notice indicating the steps that may be required to purge out any dirt or air that got trapped in the plumbing during our work.
Our goal for this process improvement is focused on an increase in customer satisfaction. I know that we’ll get there soon but apologize in advance for any inconvenience you may experience during this process. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this project, please free to reach out to me.
Director of Administration
Frequently Asked Questions
Q – When will my meter be changed out?
A – The changeout priorities were based on areas that have a high concentration of dead transmitter batteries in the drive-by metering system (which has led to increases in the time it takes to read a route as they must be read manually).
Q – How often do our meters get changed out?
A- The existing Badger meters were installed between 2004 and 2006. We expect to use the new Neptune meters for 15 years.
Q – What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure?
A – Our current metering technology, referred to as Automated Meter Reading (AMR), requires driving with 30 to 50 feet of a meter in order to collect the reading. The new meters use a technology, referred to as Advanced Metering Infrastructure, that using a set of data collectors mounted throughout Glynn County that will collect these meter readings via a radio transmitter and then transmit them to our office using cell service, thereby reducing the amount of daily travel required by staff.
Q – Will my bill go up? What is this going to cost me?
A – There will not be a direct increase in your monthly billing due to this project as the expense is a function of regular budgeting for annual maintenance though fluctuations in flow may result in variations in your monthly bill.
Q – How can I access my metering data online?
A – Once your meter has been upgraded to this new type, we will contact you with a means to access an online portal referred to as Watersmart. In this portal, you will be able to track daily flow, spot usage trends and set alarms to provide an alert if there is unusual activity.
Q – How long will it take to change the meter? / How long will my service be disrupted?
A – The typical installation process will take around 10 to 15 minutes, due to the need to replace the meter box and meter; flush air and check for leaks; and clean up the worksite.
Q – Who do I contact if I believe something is wrong after my meter has been changed out such as an appliance?
A – Please contact BGJWSC customer service by phone at 912-261-7100 or using email@example.com if you encounter any problems.
Q – Why is there air in the lines of my home?
A – In all cases, replacing the meter requires turning off the service line at the street end, which will cause the pressure to drop as water drains within the plumbing inside your home. If you have a hand valve on your side of the meter, we may be able to isolate pressure between that valve in your house. Either way, our contractor will make every reasonable attempt to flush air and debris from the service line following the installation but that will require the presence of an outside spigot. You may still have some air within the house plumbing but that can be flushed easily from a tub spout.
Q – I have a leak now, who do I call to get an adjustment?
A – Please contact BGJWSC customer service by phone at 912-261-7100 or using firstname.lastname@example.org if you encounter any problems.
Q – Who do I report damage to my yard/other property to?
A – Our contractor has a worksite that is limited to 3 feet around the meter box. Photos are taken before and after the work. If your meter box is hidden by shrubbery, we may need to remove it to get access to the meter. All reasonable attempts to avoid disturbing your landscaping will be made. If you feel that our contractor has not met that standard, please contact BGJWSC customer service by phone at 912-261-7100 or using email@example.com.
Q – Why is my water discolored now?
A – During the installation process, a minimal amount of dirt and other debris may be introduced into your service line. That should flush out within 3 minutes running water through the spout in your tub. If you have other discoloration that does not flush out using this method, please contact BGJWSC customer service by phone at 912-261-7100 or using firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q – Is the new meter going to be more accurate than the old one?
A – Water meters become less accurate in your favor as they age due to scaling and mineral deposits on the internal moving parts. These new meters have been factory-confirmed to be accurate. If you find a change in your billing that cannot be easily understood using the Watersmart portal, please contact BGJWSC customer service by phone at 912-261-7100 or using email@example.com.
Q – My meter was covered up before the project. Will it have to remain uncovered?
A – One benefit we’re providing through this project is the collection of high-accuracy (survey grade) GPS point data collection. This will enable much more rapid location of your meter, should we have to access the meter box for maintenance. However, we will not replace landscaping on top of the meter box and encourage you to not place sod or other landscaping features over the top of the box in the future as this will hinder the transmission of the flow data to our network data collector.
Q – Will this help you tell me or my plumber where the meter is located?
A – Absolutely! Our customer service staff will be able to provide survey grade latitude and latitude coordinates once this project has been completed. This info can be seen on a simple mobile app, such as Google Maps, allowing you to walk to the location of your meter, within 1 to 3 feet at the most. You will also see the location of the meter within the Watersmart portal.
Q – Will I be warned before the meter is replaced?
A – Our contractor, M&E Construction, will knock on your door to prepare you for the service being shut off. If there is no answer, a doorknob notice will be left outlining the process to flush air or debris from the lines when you return.
Q – How will COVID-19 (or any other potential pandemic influenza) impact this project?
A – Our contractor, M&E Construction, has allowed their staff to work mask-free unless approached on the jobsite. They will also put on a mask when approaching your door.
Q – How are you reviewing the installation process (QA/QC)?
A – Our staff will inspect a minimum of 10% of the installation at random to ensure compliance with our standards.