Frequently Asked Questions about Agua  Vista, OWASA’s Metering Initiative

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What is Agua Vista and how does it work? Agua Vista is OWASA’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Initiative.  AMI technology uses a small battery-powered communications device connected to your water meter to read and transmit a low-powered radio signal to a nearby collector. The collector then transmits the meter reading to OWASA's office in Carrboro. This eliminates the need for someone to drive to your home to read your water meter and allows the water use data to be more available to OWASA and you on a daily basis.

How will Agua Vista benefit me? Agua Vista will give you increased insight into your water use and provide early water leak detection. The Agua Vista web portal will be launched in 2019. Using the portal, you will be able to monitor and manage your water use. In addition, customers who provide phone and email addresses can receive alerts when water use trends indicate a leak or when they reach a certain level of consumption. In the meantime, before the web portal is available, OWASA will be able to see this information and will contact customers if a leak is detected. This should significantly reduce high water bills and property damage due to leaks. 

What if someone doesn't have access to the internet? Without ever logging on, all OWASA customers will benefit from the Agua Vista Metering Initiative. Every day, we will use the system to analyze water use data for small, large, and catastrophic leaks and proactively alert customers of these otherwise costly leaks via telephone or email. Additionally, there will be multiple opportunities for them to engage with their water use data. The Agua Vista web portal will be accessible via mobile phone, as well as internet-connected computers and tablets. We will also actively work with our partners in affordability outreach to incorporate the use of the Agua Vista web portal into discussions of household budgeting. As always, our staff will be at-the-ready to individually walk customers through their water use history via telephone or a short trip to our offices in Carrboro.

How will I know when my meter gets upgraded? OWASA and our contractor, Kentrel, will be upgrading meters by meter reading routes. You will receive a letter about one month before your meter will be upgraded. And, once the meter communication device is in place, the installer will let you know that your water meter has been upgraded by leaving a tag on your front door. If your property requires that you are there for the installation, we will set up an appointment. Most will not need an appointment.

Additionally, we will be posting information about the upgrades to individual neighborhoods on NextDoor, a private social media network for your neighborhood.

 

What do I need to know about the meter upgrade?

  • Water service will be briefly interrupted for about 5-10 minutes during the upgrade. We apologize for any inconvenience to you.
  • Installers wearing shirts with the “Kentrel” log and a project-specific badge will do the upgrade. Their vehicles will be marked with Kentrel and OWASA logos, and they will have a letter identifying them as a subcontractor for the project.
  • Most upgrades will be done on Mondays through Fridays between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM.
  • A Kentrel employee will knock on your door before doing the upgrade.
  • During the upgrade, the employee will temporarily turn off the water, change out the meter, and leave a door hanger explaining that your meter was changed out along with instructions you may need to follow prior to using your water.
  • Please keep obstructions at least three feet away from your OWASA meter. We ask that you keep pets and dogs away from the water meter during the upgrade.
  • If your OWASA meter is not accessible for the upgrade, we will contact you if there is a need to remove plantings or other obstructions.

What if I have additional questions or concerns about my meter upgrade? Please call Kentrel directly at 919-968-4485. You are always welcome to contact OWASA at 919-537-4343 with comments and questions about OWASA’s programs and services. Please tell us about your meter upgrade experience on our short survey.

 

What is the initiative costing and why are you doing it?  The total budget for the project is $5.4 million, for which we have received a low-interest loan from the State of North Carolina. The good news is that this investment will reduce costs, so rates will not increase to pay for this project. Moreover, the system will enhance water service in our community. Collecting meter readings once a day, rather than once a month, allows OWASA to more quickly identify leaks or broken meters. This not only saves the customer money but helps to conserve water which benefits everyone and the environment.  An additional environmental benefit is that OWASA will be able to reduce the number of vehicles we have on the road, associated vehicle maintenance and fuel costs, and vehicle emissions. 

 

Why is it called Agua Vista? We thought it had a nice ring, don’t you? The name "Agua Vista" is an adaptation of the Spanish translation of “water in sight”. Advanced Meter Infrastructure is going to provide our community the ability to view more detailed water use data. The magnifying glass signifies the increased level of detail at which you will be able to view your water use trends.

 

How can I identify an authorized contractor for the Agua Vista project?  In addition to OWASA staff, we will be working with contractors over the course of the project, including Mueller Systems, and Jonach Electronics. The vehicle of every contractor will be identified with a decal that includes the logo of OWASA and the project. Individuals will be wearing a collared shirt with the contractor's logo and a project-specific badge. Additionally, each contractor will have an authorization letter that they will provide at-request.

 

Will my rates go up to pay for it? No. Based on estimates provided by a third-party, the Agua Vista project will ultimately decrease costs for OWASA and our customers. Because Agua Vista is a more efficient way to read meters, OWASA will save on operational and personnel costs. No OWASA employees will lose their job as a result of the initiative, but some jobs will change. 

 

Will my bill be different? No, not at first. Your bill will look the same. The Agua Vista technology will provide more accuracy and precision in meter reading.

 

What is the timeline for implementing the Agua Vista project? The project will take about 2 years to complete. We expect to have all meters upgraded and a web portal available for customers by June 2019. Project Timeline

 

How does the new system work? Every meter in OWASA’s service area will be upgraded with a battery-powered communications device that will relay encrypted water use data once per day through a network infrastructure exclusive to OWASA meters. This infrastructure includes small signal repeaters installed throughout the community on stop signs, street signs, and other traffic signs that relay data to collection devices. The data will then be transmitted to cloud-based servers and available to OWASA Customer Service staff and ultimately to you.

 

Will there be any difference in the delivery or quality of water after my meter upgrade? No. You will continue to enjoy the same high-quality water you have come to expect from OWASA.

 

Will OWASA employees lose their jobs?  Everyone will remain on the OWASA team. OWASA values our employees. The responsibilities of staff who read meters are being reviewed, and we are working with them on their future reassignments.

 

Will the radio waves impact my health?  OWASA’s Agua Vista metering infrastructure will communicate in the 900 Mhz frequency, the same frequency used by many baby monitors and cordless telephones. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found no demonstrated adverse health effects from exposure to such low-level radio frequency energy. It’s also important to keep in mind that your water meter is located well outside your house, typically at or near the curb. The strength of the radio signals weaken significantly as the distance between you and the device increases. To further reduce concerns, our advanced meters will only transmit messages once a day for a fraction of a second. More information

 

How will OWASA protect my data? OWASA's Agua Vista system will communicate on the FCC unlicensed frequency band using a modified spread spectrum technology. This band of frequencies is set aside by the FCC for industrial, scientific, and medical uses. It is often used for low-power, short-range consumer devices, such as cordless phones. The system provides multiple layers of security to prevent hacking, eavesdropping, impersonation, and other network security threats. It uses generally accepted best practices throughout the network combined with Mueller Systems' own proprietary communications protocol.

 

The only data being communicated are encrypted meter readings and meter identification. No customer-identifiable information is transmitted. Data integrity is verified with every data message sent. Access to data within the database is securely controlled through rights and privileges.

 

Will the radio transmitter interfere with my television, computer, cordless phone, garage door, pacemaker, or other electronic devices? No. the technology operates at a very low-powered signal that is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission against interference. It is unlikely that it will interfere with the operation of other electronic devices.

 

What if I don’t want my meter to be upgraded? If you would like to request that OWASA not upgrade your meter with a communications device, please contact OWASA customer service at 919-537-4343 or email us at info@owasa.org. Please know that the following terms and conditions will apply if you opt-out of participation in the Agua Vista program:

  • OWASA will not install a communications device on your water meter, although the meter and meter lid may be replaced.
  • Once your meter reading route has been fully updated with Advanced Metering Infrastructure, you will be billed an additional fixed monthly charge to cover the cost of manually reading and processing your monthly bill. Currently, the OWASA Board of Directors has set this charge to be $25/month. This charge will be reviewed along with OWASA’s other rates and fees and adjusted accordingly to ensure full cost-recovery but no more.
  • You will not be eligible for Emergency Water Loss adjustments.
  • You will not have access to online meter reading data about your account.
  • OWASA will not be able to proactively contact you regarding potential water leaks on your property.

Who can I call or email if I have more questions? If you have questions that have not been answered, please call OWASA at 919-537-4343 or send us an email at info@owasa.org.