The main draw to the Brooklyn Brewery on Tuesday morning wasn’t just the delectable brews for a change: Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Steven W. Lawitts and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave stopped by the Brewery to announce the citywide installation of automated water meter reading technology has begun—and Brooklyn Brewery is one of the first businesses to get the upgrade.
The new wireless equipment—which will eventually be installed on all properties throughout all five boroughs— will end the use of estimated water bills, giving homeowners and small businesses more accurate and timely records of usage, thereby increasing their ability to identify how they can conserve water and reduce water bills. The initiative is expected to save New Yorkers more than $90 million annually—enough to support the retention or creation of more than 550 jobs in New York City through increased available cash flow for businesses. The program will also provide savings for the City by increasing collection rates and eliminating the expense of paying for meters to be individually read. New York City will be the largest city in the world to use wireless water metering.
“This is another prime example of bringing new technology to City government to improve services – and in this case we will potentially save New Yorkers millions of dollars a year,” Bloomberg said. “The new system will read water meters four times a day instead of four times a year, giving homeowners and small businesses a clearer picture of their water use so they can look for ways to conserve. A modest reduction in water use of just five to ten percent could reduce water bills by $90 million a year across the City.”
The new meter reading system consists of small, low-power radio transmitters connected to individual water meters that send readings every six hours to a network of rooftop receivers throughout the City. The close monitoring will allow the DEP to send bills detailing exact usage, eventually on a monthly basis and available on the internet, as opposed to the current estimated bills issued every three months. The exact billing will provide ratepayers with the ability to more closely scrutinize their water use and look for ways to conserve. The improved bills will also allow building owners to identify leaks that need repair and often prove costly.
A five per cent reduction at residential properties would produce an estimated annual savings of more than $58 million and a 10 percent reduction at commercial properties would produce an estimated annual savings of nearly $33 million.
“Our water bills are usually between $10-12,000,” said Steve Hindi, founder of the Brooklyn Brewery. “But now we can use what we save and double the size of the brewery.”
In addition to saving New Yorkers some serious cash, the new metering system will also reduce costs for City government by eliminating the need for a meter reading contract costing the City more than $3 million a year. It will also increase water bill collection rates, as the more accurate bills will lead to fewer disputes and more bills being paid sooner. The City’s current collection rate of approximately 88 percent is expected to rise to approximately 98 percent, based on experiences seen in other cities using similar systems and enforcement methods—thereby making it easier to nail the “deadbeats who don’t pay their water bills,” said Bloomberg.
The free installation for property owners has begun in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens and will begin in Staten Island this summer with installation completed on all 826,000 meters in New York City in 2011.
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