Austin Water tests 'smart meters' after high bill complaints

Marysabel Cardozo - AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Austin Water will test cellular-based smart water meters starting this month, following complaints of high water bills. The goal of the program is to bring greater accuracy and reliability to the meter reading process. They hope this will result in more timely water usage data to Austin Water customers.

The evaluation consists of three phases. In the first, Austin Water will test how well the device transmits information via a cellular network. River Place will be the first neighborhood to have the meters installed. They chose the area because it's hilly, which can cause problems for transmitting data over cellular networks. About 150 randomly selected homes will be phased in through this year.

The second phase will involve the customers. Those in test groups will receive online access to their daily water usage. Austin Water will then evaluate customer feedback. Lastly, integration into the current billing system will occur in phase three.

Last month, an audit found Austin Water's billing system is nearly 99 percent accurate. Council Member Ellen Troxclair said that means 6,000 to 7,000 meters were read incorrectly.

Last year, Austin Water issued a memo stating the bulk of the complaints regarding billing and water usage came from homeowners in the River Place and Lost Creek area. The residents in River Place and Lost Creek were former municipal utility district (MUD) customers, but were switched to AWU system in 2014 and 2015.

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