The idea of a smart water meter network is causing quite a stir in Santa Cruz. This is mainly due to concerns around radiation, according to a local media report.
The high level of drought in California could impact seriously on communities over the summer— along with raising concerns around future seasons too. The idea being put forward in Santa Cruz is “a way of conserving water,” says Peter Scott, has been talking to city leaders about a few possible conservation methods, including the online water metering system. This system is similar to the one that’s currently being installed in San Francisco.
Santa Cruz’s water department is taking the idea seriously. Director Rosemary Menard called online meters a “high priority” during May’s budget hearings. “I’m probably getting three or four emails a day from people who think we could be doing that today. Actually, I wish that we could, because in these circumstances, it would be really wonderful for people to have access to that information,” Menard said.
Still, speculation begets more speculation: would the new water meters face opposition from activists who say they’re allergic to radiation from such meters?
Josh Hart, director of the national Stop Smart Meters organization, says his group would oppose the switch to online meters in Santa Cruz. Hart cites a 2011 World Health Organization report that electromagnetic radiation waves—like the ones emitted by smart meters, cell phones and wireless Internet—may be harmful.
“Of course it’s appealing to be able to know more about your usage, but I would urge Santa Cruz to not install any metering system that uses wireless technology to transmit information,” says Hart.
Before getting serious about any possible switch, Goddard and the water department staff want to learn more about how much online water metering would reduce usage, and Goddard says the biggest barrier to switching would be cost.
That’s no small consideration. The department has, in the past year, seen both increased costs and declining revenues, as lower demand during the drought ushers in less money.
For the time being, Santa Cruz water customers can keep a closer watch on their bills even without online monitoring, since the department switched to monthly billing recently, and things are off to a good start. The department came within 1 percent of its monthly goal for conservation in June.
“People are reading daily, and really focused on their usage,” Goddard says. “I can see the interest.”