FAQs

Why is my water meter being replaced?
How does Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) work?
Where is my water meter and what does it look like?
What exactly will be installed at my property?
Where will the MIU be placed?
Will you remove the existing touchpad?
Who will install the new system?
How will I know when this system is going to be installed in my home?
How long does it take to install the service?
When will this work be performed?
Will my water service be interrupted during the installation?
What if the valves won't work or a valve is broken during installation?
May I change the valves while the water is off?
How much room do installers need?
Can I cover up my meter after the install?
What if there is something blocking or in front of the meter?
How do I know who is authorized to do the work?
Do installers need to come inside my house?
I own a business. Who do I call to schedule an appointment?
Is there any special care or maintenance that I need to do to my new meter?
Will I pay more for water as a result of the change?
What if there is a leak at the meter or any other problem after the meter is replaced?
Does my meter have to be exchanged?
What hours can you offer me?
Will my water bill increase?
How will this affect my service?
When was the last city wide meter replacement project?
What is the current and new type of meters?
What if I don’t want my meter changed?
What if I need to reschedule an appointment?
Will the appearance of my monthly bill change?
What will be the timeframe for future bills?
How much will the system cost me?
Do I have to be present for the installation?
How accurate is the system?
How often will you read my meter?
What if I need a meter reading between regular readings?
What if I disagree with the reading?
Does Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) have any other benefits for me?
Where do I submit bills for leak repair assistance?
How does the grant program for water leak repairs work?
How is this project being funded?
How secure is the data/information that will be transmitted?
Will I be able to read my own meter?
Will the City of Dubuque or IBM ever use the new smart water meters to allocate or ration water?
Can I paint over the MIU on my property?

You may download a PDF of these FAQs by clicking here.
1) Why is my water meter being replaced?
Water meters and their registers often lose accuracy as they age; therefore, they must be replaced every 15 to 20 years. In addition, the new system will include an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology that will save labor time, prevent recording errors, minimize wear and tear on vehicles, minimize the need for City employees to go on the private property of residents, and potentially allow water line leaks to be identified earlier by analysis of data collected. AMR technology will also streamline the process of transferring responsibility for an account when a customer moves in or out.

2) How does Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) work?
A small box, called a Meter Interface Unit (MIU), is installed on the exterior of your home. It is connected to your new water meter and transmits a radio signal to a data collector which relays the information to the City’s Utility Billing Office. The system will provide hourly readings.
Old meter
3) Where is my water meter and what does it look like?
Dubuque City Code requires that property owners “all meters shall be installed horizontally between one foot (1') and four feet (4') above the basement floor. A suitable place shall be provided for the meter so as to keep it dry and clean and readily accessible at all times to the meter reader and inspectors of the city.” The photo to the right is an example of an existing meter.

4) What exactly will be installed at my property?

Two components will be replaced with new equipment. Your existing water meter will be replaced with a new water meter including an unmeasured flow reducer (UFR) to more accurately record water use and assist in identifying leaks. Your existing water meter is connected to a component located on the exterior of your property. That component will be replaced with a radio frequency meter interface unit (MIU), which collects meter usage data and remotely transmits the information to data collectors. The MIU and water meter work as a unit to detect intermittent leaks, continuous leaks, reverse flow situations and zero usage situations.

5) Where will the MIU be placed?
The MIU will be placed on the outside of your home and positioned to give the best transmission results to the collector. It may be in the same place as your existing touch pad but not always.

6) Will you remove the existing touch pad?
If the transmitter can be placed in the same position then NWWS will remove the touch pad and install the MIU. If the MIU has to be installed in a new position then NWWS will leave the touch pad in place.

7) Who will install the new system?
The City has contracted with Northern Water Works Supply (NWWS) to install the new metering components. The firm was selected via competitive bidding. You will recognize the utility employees when you see them, because they will wear uniforms and photo I.D. badges. The Northern Water Works Supply logo will be on their vehicles. If you have any questions about the person at your door, please call 1-888-497-4171 to verify their identity. All NWWS installers have completed training and background checks and will have identification, wear identifiable uniforms, and drive marked vehicles.

8) How will I know when this system is going to be installed in my home?
A letter will be sent to you asking you to call Northern Water Works Supply to schedule an installation appointment. You can schedule this appointment at your convenience, Monday through Saturday. Some evening appointments are available. Installation appointments will be scheduled in two-hour “windows” of time, such as 8-10 a.m., for example. Please do not call to schedule an installation until you receive a letter asking you to do so. Installations will be completed in phases and by geographic zones.

9) How long does it take to install the service?
Installation will take about an hour, depending on how easily we can access your water meter and connect with your meter interface unit. We ask that you please be sure to be at home at the scheduled time.

10) When will this work be performed?
The project started in February 2010 and will continue through late summer 2011. In most cases the transition will be completely transparent and will not affect the residents. The majority of the work will be performed during normal working hours of 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. however arrangements for evening or Saturday installs will be available.

11) Will my water service be interrupted during the installation?
Yes. There will be a temporary service interruption during the meter replacement – typically 20 minutes. In some cases, other repairs may be necessary resulting in a longer interruption of service. Once water service is restored, installer will attempt to purge any air trapped in the service line. If some air is left in the line, you may notice a sputtering sound the first time you operate a fixture. This should only last a few seconds and will not cause any harm. The first few gallons of water may be discolored.

12) What if the valves won't work or a valve is broken during installation?
The pipe can be frozen long enough to install meter, or the water may be
turned off at the stop box. If the valve is broken by our installer, it will be replaced.

13) May I change the valves while the water is off?
No

14) How much room do installers need?
If possible, a 3' X 3' area.

15) Can I cover up my meter after the install?
No. Access needs to be available at all times.

16) What if there is something blocking or in front of the meter?
Please plan to have access to meter when installer arrives.

17) How do I know who is authorized to do the work?

City has contracted with Northern Water Works Supply to conduct this service. They will be driving marked vehicles, wearing identification, and wearing uniforms.

18) Do installers need to come inside my house?
Yes, the water meter is actually located inside the home and they will be running a wire to the outside of the house to a Meter Interface Unit (MIU).

19) I own a business. Who do I call to schedule an appointment?
The procedures for small commercials and residential will be the same for scheduling purposes. Larger meters will require additional time with installers working to limit interruption of services.

20) Is there any special care or maintenance that I need to do to my new meter?
No, your meter does not require any maintenance by the homeowner. As before, the City will take care of all maintenance; however, you should be careful not to damage the meter or allow it to freeze.

21) Will I pay more for water as a result of the change?
Your water rate will not change at the time the new meter is installed. Any future water or sewer increases/decreases will be the result of budgeting decisions.

22) What if there is a leak at the meter or any other problem after the meter is replaced?
The installer will explain procedures for problems prior to leaving a residence. An emergency number will be provided by the installer.

23) Does my meter have to be exchanged?
Yes. The new meter is required for future billing.

24) What hours can you offer me?
Installers are available Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Our scheduling office, Monday — Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. should you need to re-schedule.

25) Will my water bill increase?
The first water bill after your new meter is installed may be higher because it may reflect a longer reading period (six weeks instead of four, for example). This is a one-time occurrence necessary to provide near real-time billing and to implement the automated meter reading technology. Future bills will reflect the standard four-week reading period.

Additionally, your water bill may increase after the new meter is installed if your previous meter was under reporting your actual usage. Because of the inaccuracy of some of the previous meters, a few residents may only be paying for a portion of the water they actually use. The new metering system insures fairness and equality for all customers by measuring and billing residents and businesses for their actual water use.

Also, please note that City utility rate increases went into effect in July 2010 for fiscal year 2011 and are reflected in your City utility bill.

26) How will this affect my service?
A NWWS installer will come to your residence and replace your meter. The water meter will be checked to verify that water is presently not in use. If no water is being used, the meter will be replaced. There will be interruption of service for approximately 20 minutes during the change.

27) When was the last city wide meter replacement project?
Most meters were replaced in the mid to late 80’s in Dubuque.

28) What is the current and new type of meters?
Sensus and Rockwell meters are currently in use. The new meters will be Neptune meters which are manufactured in Alabama.

29) What if I don’t want my meter changed?
This is not an option, all meters will be changed.

30) What if I need to reschedule an appointment?
You will need to contact NWWS prior to your scheduled appointment day, appreciate 24 hour notice.

31) Will the appearance of my monthly bill change?
Bills will change due to billing in gallons as opposed to units of 100 cubic feet (748 gallons)

32) What will be the time frame for future bills?
Bills will continue to be generated monthly however the first bill after installation may reflect a longer reading period.

33) How much will the system cost me?
There is no charge for installation, and this system does not increase the cost of water service to you. Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) is designed to help control costs by increasing meter reading accuracy and efficiency.

34) Do I have to be present for the installation?
For your peace of mind, we require that an adult be present during the installation. The installer technician will not enter your premises unless authorized to do so by someone aged 18 or older. He or she will not enter if your children are at home alone.

35) How accurate is the system?
Meter readings obtained over radio frequency transmissions are 100% accurate.

36) How often will you read my meter?
The radio frequency can provide as many as 24 reads per day, which is hourly. However, you will still be billed on a monthly basis.

37) What if I need a meter reading between regular readings?
Daily readings are available with AMR technology.

38) What if I disagree with the reading?
We will ask your meter for a new reading and call you with the new information it provides. Customers can also obtain a reading at any time to compare to their bill.

39) Does Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) have any other benefits for me?
Yes! Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) will allow us to detect possible leaks in your plumbing faster and notify you of problems before they become serious...and costly. We’ll eliminate the need for manually reading meters monthly. Accuracy will improve. In addition to speed and reliability, we won’t have to enter your home, except for periodical maintenance or replacement of system components, when needed. Monthly reads at your residence will not be required.

40) Where do I submit bills for leak repair assistance?
Bills and supporting documentation should be sent to the Utility Billing office for processing.

41) How does the grant program for water leak repairs work?
Subject to available funds, the City has created a grant program for financial assistance to residents who repair plumbing leaks in their homes as part of the water meter replacement program. The City will pay 50% of the replacement cost, not to exceed $100, for repairs made to leaking plumbing devices inside the home. Click here for more information, and to download a grant application.

42) How is this project being funded?
Funding for this $8.7 million project is from a $7.7 million State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan and a $1 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) forgivable loan.

43) How secure is the data/information that will be transmitted?
Because of the equipment and frequencies being used, the information would be extremely difficult for unauthorized acquisition or “hacking”.

44) Will I be able to read my own meter?
Yes, the new meters will have a digital display so meters can be read manually.

45) Will the City of Dubuque or IBM ever use the new smart water meters to allocate or ration water?
Smarter Sustainable Dubuque is a partnership between the City of Dubuque and IBM Research and is an element of the City’s Sustainable Dubuque initiative. Smarter Sustainable Dubuque was created to reduce costs, create new jobs, and decrease the community’s impact on the environment. The project’s goals include providing Dubuque residents and businesses the information and tools they need to make smarter choices related to resource consumption.

The voluntary Smarter Water Pilot Project currently underway is designed to provide the 350 participating households with more detailed information that they can use to reduce their water bill, conserve water, and reduce carbon emissions -- if they choose to do so,” said David Lyons, project manager for Smarter Sustainable Dubuque. “It is completely voluntary and it is up to the household which, if any, actions they choose to take in response to the information.”

The new meters CANNOT be used to allocate or ration water. This includes the meters in the voluntary Smarter Water Pilot Study and the City’s community-wide, mandatory water meter replacement project. The new meters only measure and record the amount of water that flows through them and detect constant and intermittent usage within the property’s plumbing system, which can indicate a leak. The meter is connected to a Meter Interface Unit (MIU) which transmits a radio signal to a data collector which relays the information to the City’s Utility Billing Office.

Smarter Sustainable Dubuque partners, like IBM, do not have access to the meters or information that is specific to a Dubuque household. The information to which they have access is limited to an anonymous ID number and its related water usage data.

“The raw water aquifers that support our demand needs to our wells are plentiful,” said City of Dubuque Water Department Manager Bob Green. He said the water plant’s capacity is 18 million gallons per day (MGD). Dubuque’s daily average use is 8 MGD and, during extreme hot weather conditions, peak demand usage may hit as high as 12 MGD, leaving 6 MGD reserve capacity during peak demand.

46) Can I paint over the MIU on my property?
The “outdoor box” is actually the meter interface unit, or MIU. The MIU collects water usage data from the water meter within the structure and remotely and securely transmits the information to data collectors. The system will automatically and securely transmit meter usage data over radio frequency waves each hour to data collectors placed throughout the community. The data collectors then transmit the information to the City’s utility billing department.

The MIU’s placement on the exterior of the building is determined by two things: the location of the meter (which is usually in the basement) and the optimal location for signal transmission to the closest data collector.

“MIUs cannot be painted or covered because doing so would impact long-term maintenance of the system,” said City of Dubuque Water Department Manager Bob Green. “Each unit is labeled uniquely and we need to be able to access that information. Painting or otherwise covering the MIU would prevent that.”