Denver Water is switching to Itron automated meter reading

By Tillie Fong
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

New technology involving radio transmitters soon will allow Denver Water employees to read meters from their vehicles.

"We will save on labor costs, vehicles and communication devices, plus the overhead for all of that," said Charlie Jordan, public affairs director for the Denver Water Department.

Denver Water expects to spend $30 million over the next five years to install the meter reading system.

Another $10 million will be spent to replace old meters.

The AMR — automatic meter reading — system is provided by Itron Inc., a Spokane, Wash.-based utility data management company.

The system is similar to the one used by Public Service Company to read electric and gas meters.

A $100,000 mobile computer, known as a data control unit, is installed in a vehicle. The computer will be fed information on the meters to be read that day.

As the computerized vehicle passes the meters on the route the computer picks up readings from radio transmitters.

The agency will be able to cut 39 jobs and save an estimated $4 million a year. The agency currently spends $5 million a year to read meters and has 35 meter readers.

Starting in September, technicians will be installing small disk-like radio transmitters on the 220,000 commercial and residential water meters in Denver Water's service area.

The installation will not inconvenience customers, Jordan said.

"Our meters are out front as a rule, so we're out by the sidewalks. We'll let people know we're coming through," he said.

The upgrade will be spread over five years to minimize the cost of the project.