Row of water meters of cold and hot water on the wall background.

"Cannistraro said the city is anticipated to recoup its installation costs in an estimated 12-13 years."

Another “emerging technology’’ will soon reach the yards of virtually every Mesa homeowner – improving efficiency, reducing theft and helping consumers save money, officials predict.

It also will cost taxpayers $60 million by the time the project is completed in May 2022.

City officials outlined plans last week for Mesa’s conversion to “smart water meters’’ that can be read remotely, eliminating meter readers and instantly pinpointing water leaks and other issues.

Despite the cost, the project generally was received warmly by Mesa City Council.

“I think this is something badly needed in the community,’’ said Councilman Dave Luna. “I like the idea that a customer will be able to go in and monitor their consumption.’’

Councilman Francisco Heredia recommended an educational effort to instruct Mesa residents about how to use the system wisely and to save the most money possible.

“I am very excited about the technology as a resident,’’ Councilwoman Jen Duff said. “Maybe we have a leak in our irrigation’’ that would be identified by the system.

Jake West, Mesa’s water resources manager whose job usually focuses on obtaining and delivering water, said, “I think this will be a big part of our conservation effort.’’

Phase One involves replaceming about 2,000 meters downtown and in Superstition Springs in East Mesa. It also includes building a computer network that will allow the city to turn on and turn off meters electronically from a central location. 

Residents also will be able to use a portal to monitor their use of electricity and water, to see the impact of replacing an old heat pump or to spot a potentially expensive water leak.

Once Phase One is tested and checks out, the next step is a costly and time-consuming one: replacing more than 200,000 meters citywide.

“We are going fast and furious on this project, to get this project through,’’ said Candace Cannistraro, the city’s management and budget director who is heading up the multi-dimensional project.

Her presentation said a firm with experience in rolling out such systems, called Arcadis, has been retained to direct the project, with four different city departments participating.

Phase One is anticipated to launch in May 2021 and the entire city is expected to be covered about a year later.

She told the City Council at a study session that the cost of phase one would be $5 million and the citywide buildout would cost another $55 million. 

The entire effort is considered a capital improvement project and could be funded with a bond issue, utility excise tax bonds or other short mid-term financing, Cannistraro told the Tribune. funded with bonds, the usual practice in Mesa.

“The cost for phase one is estimated at $5 million and is funded with current bond authorization in water, natural gas and electric,’’ she told the Tribune in an email.

“The funding for citywide deployment is also anticipated to use bond financing,” she said, adding: “We will explore all options over the next year as we further understand and quantify the anticipated costs and benefits.”

A consultant concluded that the city is primed for such a project because of several factors, including its extensive fiber availability, which will make the network needed for the extensive system possible. 

The consultant’s report said that Mesa had about 229,000 meters last year, including 148,000 water, 63,000 gas and 16,700 electricity. The vast majority of these meters will need to be replaced.

Cannistraro said the city is anticipated to recoup its installation costs in an estimated 12-13 years.

 The savings from the system are estimated to include $1.7 million a year from minimal meter reading; an 80 percent reduction in customer service trips saving 7,900 work hours; $2.7 million per year from timely replacement of inaccurate meters.

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