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City to count every last drop of H2O

By 2011, water bills for homes and businesses in New York City will be tabulated using automated water meters, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last Tuesday at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery.

The meters — which are being installed in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg-Greenpoint, Sea Gate, and Weeksville — will render estimated water bills a thing of the past.  Currently, most New York City homes and businesses have their water meters read four times a year, with an estimate derived from these readings.  The new meters will be read four times a day.

Bloomberg said the new system “will give homeowners and small businesses a clear picture of their water use so they can look for ways to conserve.”  He estimated this would enable homeowners to save 5 percent on their water bills each year, while businesses would save 10 percent.

All totaled, he estimated the city would save an annual $91 million, which he said could support the retention or creation of 550 jobs in New York City.  The total cost of the changeover to automated meter reading is approximately $250 million.

“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 million of dollars a year,” Bloomberg said.

In addition to Brooklyn, the new meters are being installed in Manhattan and Queens, and are expected to begin in Staten Island this summer.  The upgrade is free of charge to the home or business owner.

The automated meter reading system consists of small, low-power radio transmitters to individual water meters that send readings every six hours to a network of rooftop receivers throughout the city.

“This is a more accurate way to read meters and show customers their exact water consumption so they can conserve and more efficiently manage their bill, especially in these uncertain economic times,” said Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Steven W. Lawitts.

“This technology will ensure that bills are more accurate and will eliminate, with rare exceptions, the need to estimate some bills that are inaccurate and subject to later adjustment and surprises for customers.”

Property owners will receive a postcard two to four weeks before the arrival of installation contractors in their neighborhood.  If a property owner is not home when the contractor arrives, a door hanger will be left with a number to call to schedule an appointment, which are available for daytime or evening hours on both weekdays and weekends.

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