The city of Glen Rose plans to go high-tech in the near future by implementing an automatic meter reading (AMR) system on a portion of the city’s water meters.

During the council’s May 12 meeting, city leaders unanimously approved a $25,000 expenditure to purchase a starter set of “ReadyRead” equipment for approximately 80 water meters along US Hwy. 67. The AMR system, city staff says, will lessen the danger employees face when having to get in and out of their vehicle and crossing the busy roadway to collect data from the meters.

City Superintendent Ronald Bruce says the AMR equipment has many benefits, including improving efficiency.

“It will take a lot less manpower and less time and provide more accurate information with our water bills,” said Bruce. “The system will also alert us when there’s a leak based on information from the account holder’s average usage.”

Plans are to initially implement the technology along Hwy. 67 and eventually begin replacing and updating meters across the city, said Bruce who added that the system will pay for itself in less than 10 years due to the savings on labor.

“We’ll slowly integrate the meters across town in the coming years and most of our meters will be easy to transfer,” said Bruce. “There are about 1,100 meters across the city that will have to be converted and we hope to convert 40 to 50 meters per year.”

The AMR system uses radio frequency transmitters to relay data from each meter to a laptop computer in a vehicle, explained Bruce. “You simply drive down the road and the computer will display a map on the screen. As you drive by, the dots on the screen representing the meters will change from red to black. If you pass a dot and it doesn’t sound an alarm, you just turn around to pick up the signal.”

Bruce said the AMR system will also signal a tone letting the city employee know if there’s a problem with that particular meter. “The system will inform you if the last meter it read detected something abnormal with that account’s water usage, possibly signaling a leak. All you have to do is look back at the history of that account’s usage and never step out of the truck.”

Currently, it takes two city employees three to four days to read all of the city’s water meters, said Bruce, but once all accounts are converted to the AMR system it will require one employee and only three to four hours.

To offset the costs of the new technology, city councilors approved a measure to increase the meter set fees from $100 to $200.

City employee Jim Holder informed the council that the funds were available in the budget to cover the costs of the initial $24,000 starter set which will pay for the AMR transmitters along Hwy. 67. The purchase would also cover the costs of software associated with the transmitters and training for city staff.

Bruce said the city has already implemented a similar system that monitors the elevated storage tanks, known as a Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition System (SCADA).

“It’s great because we used to not have alarms and if a 10-inch water line broke in the middle of the night we’d be hustling around trying to find the leak,” said Bruce. “If something out of the ordinary happens you get a call and now we can simply look on the laptop to see if there’s a pump failure and switch the pumps, all without ever having to leave the house.”

The city expects to acquire the AMR system in the coming weeks and begin installing the transmitters to those account holders’ meters along the highway.