FAQs

1. What is “Smarter Water?”
Dubuque’s Smarter Water Pilot Study is a Smarter Sustainable Dubuque project being conducted in conjunction with the City’s community-wide water meter replacement project. Dubuque is enhancing its infrastructure with technology to help residents make more informed decisions about how they use water and the associated costs to their bank accounts and the environment. The participants can track their water usage via a website or portal. More than 300 Dubuque households have volunteered to participate in this 12-month pilot study. While every household in Dubuque will receive a new water meter by the end of 2011, only homeowners who live in a targeted pilot area are eligible for the Smarter Water Project. This area was selected because it met the needs of the equipment being used for the radio reads; contains a high percentage of single-family, owner-occupied homes; and a variety of housing stock, in terms of age and size. 

2. How was the IBM Smarter Water portal funded? How much did development of the portal cost?
The portal is part of a larger research project designed to determine how Dubuque households can save money, conserve water and reduce community carbon output. The overall costs for the research project are $850,000. These funds were part of the water system improvement project, which was funded by a mix of local, state and national funding sources. 

3. Will my taxes be increased because of the Smarter Water portal? Will my water bill go up because of the portal?
The portal will not affect local taxes or water bills. The research has been funded as part of the water system improvement project. No decision has been made as to whether to continue to fund the system after this research phase. That decision will be based upon the results of the pilot study.

4. 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.

5. How are gallons translated into dollars?
Gallons are translated into dollars using a rate of 0.00294 per gal for water and 0.00352 per gallon for sewer. Sewer usage is based on the water usage since most of your water usage enters the sewer system. 7% tax is calculated on water only. Click here to see an example.
 
6. How are gallons translated in CO2?
In order to find the CO2 (carbon impact) produced by your water usage, you can use the formula- gallons times 0.012. There are also emissions calculators available on the web that let you know what the overall carbon emissions of your household are based on your current water, electric, recycling habits.  

7. Where would I find water rate information?
Rate information is located on the Utility Billing department page. Click here to access this information.