Water Meter Replacement Program Under Budget Despite COVID-19 Challenges: Report

Council will discuss the progress of the first year of the city’s water meter replacement program when a report detailing the total cost and amount of water leaks is presented at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting.

The water meter replacement program began in March 2019 and ended in July 2020, replacing a total of 11,332 meters around Prince Albert. The total project cost was $4,603,563.20, more than $3,500 under budget. The report found that the new meters more accurately read the water actually used, reducing water loss in the city.

Completion of the program initially took longer than expected due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited the ability to access homes in Prince Albert to install new meters. These delays also forced the City to extend the rental of additional workspaces for project contractors and housed water meters.

The report stated that “water loss cannot be completely eliminated,” as there are several factors that can cause loss that are beyond the City’s control. Major contributors to water loss are leaks from pipes, infrastructure and water mains, fires, drain flushing, street sweeping and unmetered municipal facilities. Although water loss cannot be completely eliminated, counting all City facilities and landscaping agreements would help determine a more accurate water loss value.

A number of benefits have been realized during the new project, including the ability to detect if a water meter has been tampered with, assist customers with advanced troubleshooting and better monitoring of overdue accounts. Properties that had faulty building control valves or shut-off valves were identified and replaced, along with 45 commercial properties and 3 residential properties that had illegal bypasses. The City worked with these landowners to have the bypasses measured or removed.

Several additional initiatives that can be undertaken to improve water loss in Prince Albert will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, including the implementation of a cap on winter lump sum accounts and landscape/boulevard metering agreements. .

At the end of 2021, the terminal technology attached to the new water meters was disrupted, which required estimates for billing. The City of Prince Albert is currently working closely with Badger, the manufacturer of the terminal technology, to reach a resolution regarding the affected water meters.

Residents can now make an appointment to schedule a terminal technology software update to fix the issues. These updates are free to the City or water utility customers.

Ryan H. Bowman