Residents’ daily water usage now online

The city’s new water-metering system is being billed as a way for residents to better understand their water usage and to take steps to manage it. 

City Hall took over the water-billing system from PowerStream, effective Oct. 1, although the actual decision to do so dates back to March of last year. 

“We will provide cost-effective services and useful, easy-to-access information. PowerStream and City of Barrie staff have been working closely over the past year to ensure the smooth transition,” says Ed Archer, general manager of corporate services. 

The actual transfer of billing responsibility is the latest step in a process that included the Advanced Metering Infrastructure system (smart meter) being installed at homes and businesses.
The new device automates the meter-reading process, transferring information electronically to the water-billing system, which produces a bill.
The decision to initiate an in-house meter-reading system was made by council in March of 2010 following a business case presented by city staff, which identified operational savings and anticipated improvements in customer service. It’s expected the new system will save related costs of $600,000 a year.
The provincial mandate to install smart meters at homes and businesses for electricity usage, effective Jan. 1, 2011, would have doubled the City’s cost of reading water meters if the old system had been left in place, as synergies found with PowerStream evaporated when the utility was no longer required to read electricity meters manually, and that job was left to city staff.
The province was also mandating new regulatory and reporting rules for water operations, leading the City to reconsider the benefits of combined water and electricity bills.
The province requires water services to be paid for solely through rates, and not property taxes. Rates are also expected to be established through a full cost-recovery program that ensures current and future service needs are met.
The savings, therefore, result from a combination of no longer having to read water meters manually, as well as less overhead and more internal efficiencies.
With the new system, residents will be able to access water usage daily, moderating usage if it seems too high or identifying a potential billing concern. 

The new system will produce bills that are easier to read, future online self-service options, a reduced number of estimated readings, and a more customer-focused approach to concerns and inquires, according to city officials. 

“We’re confident that customers will be pleased with these new services. This innovative technology puts the customer in the driver’s seat on how they manage their water consumption. These changes are an investment that will benefit our residents and the City of Barrie for years to come,” says Archer. 

Billing routine remains the same, on a bi-monthly basis for residential and monthly for business.
• Read the City’s 2010 water report.
• Read the province’s Water Opportunities Act.

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