Culkin Water considering remote gauges

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drive-by technology to record residential and commercial water usage is being explored by officials with the Culkin Water District, though full installation is at least a year away.

Formal proposals are being sought by the 4,300-customer district to install new meters for its entire customer base that can read remotely via computer database instead of by walking neighborhoods, general manager John Gunn said.

“It will be very modernized,” Gunn said, adding the district’s advisory board will consider all proposals received through Jan. 10 and will be considered next year with more than $13.6 million in other long-range improvements planned by the district. Energy service companies are being asked to provide a comprehensive plan to install the meters and the mobile technology to conserve water, increase efficiency and revenue and lower operation costs, according to the public request for qualifications OK’d by the board.

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Gunn said customer rates will finance the installation of any new metering system, but no rate hikes will be necessary along the way. The bulk of completed and continuing upgrades to pipes, tanks and other infrastructure have been paid for by a mix of federal money and general obligation bonds. Rates stand at $29.50 for up to 3,000 gallons. For more, the rate is $3.60 for every 1,000 gallons up to 1 million and $3.10 for usage exceeding 1 million.

What’s likeliest to be compatible with the district’s diverse coverage area is the so-called “drive-by” automated meter- reading device, where meters are linked to a network that district employees in work trucks can pick up and read on a laptop — similar to the City of Vicksburg, Gunn said.

Vicksburg Water and Gas Administration director Tammye Christmas said meter-reading went electronic nearly four years ago, along with online payment options. The city’s 10,000 metered customers are read remotely via a multiplexer unit signal picked up by laptops in department trucks.

Upgrades to the independent water provider’s physical plants in the past five years include hydrants and a new water main in Redwood, well and booster station upgrades and a new pressure tank in the Mount Alban area — financed by bonds and federal grants — and a 300,000-gallon storage tank in Bovina, financed with a $3.2 million loan from a fund geared to drinking water system improvements from the Mississippi Department of Health. Projects planned beyond 2010 involve an additional well, a systemwide pipe upgrade and a new office building.