Jamestown installing high-tech water meters that can phone home

Jul 20, 2020

It's a ritual of urban life: several times a year, someone comes by and reads the water meter. It may be from a gauge on the outside of the building or require a trip into the basement. Jamestown wants to eliminate all that.

Jamestown is planning to replace 3,000 water meters with the latest technology, which can call the city's computer system and report on how much water is being used.

The city received a good start, with $200,000 from Albany under the Smart Cities Innovation Partnership. The most recent state million dollars in grants is paying for using street lights in a public housing complex as a base for Wi-Fi to monitoring Skaneateles Lake for harmful algae blooms. Jamestown is matching that with $400,000.

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said the remote-reading meters currently installed don't work all that well.

"We still have had to put out meter readers. We still have to send around vans to read what is shortwave transmission of our water meters," Sunquist said. "What we're looking to do is put in water meters across the City of Jamestown that are wireless and are able to connect to the city's internal networks. We're able to remotely monitor and control those water meters, as well as read them."

Sundquist said replacing the meters will require more than just the state grant. He sees it as part of creating a data-heavy city government to help operate ever more efficiently. He said a lot of other governments in Chautauqua County are watching closely to see how it goes. The mayor said he wants the city to be even more computerized for data to operate efficiently.

"We want to make sure that the costs are low, because we provide one of the lowest costs of electricity and water around, both in the county and in many parts of Western New York," he said. "We're proud of that and we want to be able to not only control the costs, but we also want to be in the forefront of technology, just to make sure that we are providing the best service that we can to all of our customers."

Once this project is complete, the city will move on to another data sweep system.

"We're looking to ensure that we have a complete management software in the city, to help us track incidents as well as potential problems with, in particular, potholes, service areas, our fleet maintenance," Sunquist said. "Bringing those things all together under one software component is kind of our next big goal."

He said efficiency and cost controls are important in a city that owns its water, sewer and power company, key elements in people's lives.