Smart water meters: Chicago failures threaten consumer confidence

Smart water management US utilities using new software
The Chicago Tribune is driving an investigation into cases of smart water meter failures in two suburbs of the Illinois based city

In the US, the local press in Chicago has reported teething problems following the installation of smart water meters.

Residents of one suburb of Chicago have reported “chronic overcharging” by smart water meters while another is experiencing meters claiming usage even when not connected.

Officials in the Aurora area of Chicago are stressing that fewer than 10 meters out of the 6,000 Sensus iPerl smart water meters installed since 2014 had experienced problems, reports Chicago Tribune.

But the municipal water board has increased random testing of digital meters and asked Sensus to either replace a suspect batch of digital meters or provide equipment to more closely monitor their readings.

Smart water meter failures

In February 2015, utility workers in Aurora allegedly noticed strange fluctuations in readings by eight meters that had been pulled from homes for reasons unrelated to overbilling.

Ray Hull, the suburb’s water superintendent, said the unhooked meters showed strange readings: three spinning forward, three spinning backward and two whose patterns couldn’t be determined, stated the newspaper report.

According to records made public to the Chicago Tribune, Sensus said that water had got into the meters’ electronics in a way that the manufacturer hadn’t realized before.

The North-Carolina based manufacturer responded by saying it was beefing up the waterproofing in newer batches of smart water meters.

While Mr Hull said the small number of suspect meters in Aurora doesn’t signal a major problem, the press coverage is damaging to consumer engagement with the city-wide rollout.

Smart water meters overbilling

Another area of the city – Tinley Park – is also experiencing problems with smart water meters.

Using a different brand of digital meter, the Chicago Tribune reports there have been “hundreds of cases of overbilling, with thousands more meter failures unexplained”.

The suburb’s public works director resigned last week amid questions over his handling of the issue, and its elected leaders are seeking an outside review.