New technology helps this Utah city conserve water by catching leaks early

Northern Utah News
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NORTH OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – In 2014, North Ogden City began the process of investing more than $1 million into updating its water meter system. In 2020, the city installed the last of more than 6,700 new meters. Today, city officials are learning just how valuable the new system is as Utahns continue finding ways to conserve water.

In North Ogden, every time someone turns on the shower or the kitchen faucet, the city is able to track the water use. The city only tracks culinary water.

The city’s new meter system allows for tracking water usage as low as a tenth of a gallon per minute. The new meters are a product from Master Meter, Allegro Tech. They use cell service to send a signal to the city which then access the information on a computer program called Harmony.

Water Operator Ryan Carter simplifies, “So, it’s basically the same way your cell phone reads. It just transmits. We have a base station set up near North Ogden Divide and this (he holds a small, black piece of equipment) transmits your data out, and then it sends it back to us on a computer.”

Along with the base station, the data is also sent from a handful of repeaters which are strategically placed around the city so that all the water meters have are able to easily transmit the data. The repeaters can be hard to miss since they are small and sit on top of street lights.

In the past, water operators would drive down the streets once a month collecting the information via radio transmition. The work vehicle would pick up the signal from the water meters as it drove past homes. This would take workers around three days. Now, it’s done daily and automatically.

This makes the city more effective in catching water leaks. Carter adds, “If water runs through this (he says pointing to a meter) continuously for 12 hours straight, it sends us a leak alarm.”

When that happens, the city can look at a particualr home’s hourly water use. If the data shows a possible leak, the city sends out water operators to check the meters in person. If the meter is detecting an unusual water-use pattern, the water operators will leave a notice on the home with a check list of possible reasons. If a homeowner cannot find the problem, the operators will return to the home.

“We’ll go out there and help them find it so they don’t have to find a plumber,” explains Water Operator Dylan Hall.

Hill explains that leaks are often small, easy-to-fix problems. “We find a lot of toilets…The flappers aren’t sealing shut against the tank.” He says a faulty toilet can lead to more than 140 gallons wasted daily. With the old water meter system, that means the city might not be able to catch a leak until well more than 3,000 gallons have been wasted.

The idea is to catch it within a few days.

If the leak is something a little bigger, Hill says it would be even worse. “Instead of using water that whole month and getting charged an extra 15,000 gallons of water, we’ll be there and it’s only hundreds of gallons of water, so they don’t see a real impact on their bill and they can get it fixed.”

City officials say this not only helps keep bills down but helps save water during the drought. “Water is a precious resource and I think that we all have to make a conservation effort, especially now,” adds Carter.

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