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.

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. 

 

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. 

 

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, OWASA will be working with three contractors over the course of the project: Mueller Systems, Jonach Electronics, and Utility Partners of America (UPA). 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 are currently working on setting up the communications network and software infrastructure. We expect to begin full-scale meter installations in early 2018 and will be in direct contact with you a month prior to your installation. The customer web-portal will be released in 2019.

Project Timeline

 

Will you let me know when the installers are coming to my neighborhood?  Absolutely. You will receive a letter telling you when the installers will be working in your neighborhood. This should arrive about a month before they arrive.  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. We will be posting a map on our website that will give you a general idea of when we will be installing a new meter at your property. We will also be posting neighborhood updates on NextDoor.

 

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.

 

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.