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A Novel Approach to Conservation & Water Meters in Chicago: MeterSave
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A Novel Approach to Conservation & Water Meters in Chicago: MeterSave



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  • 1. Andrea R.H. Putz Irene Schild Caminer City of Chicago Department of Water Management Thomas H. Powers, P.E., Commissioner A Novel Approach to Conservation & Water Meters in Chicago: MeterSave
  • 2. Current Metering Status
    • Metered accounts:
      • 180,873 accounts
      • High-usage – industrial, commercial, suburban
      • 80% of water revenue
      • Flat rate of $2.01 / 1,000 gallons for all customers
      • Technology being upgraded to Automatic Meter Reading (AMR)
    • Non-metered accounts:
      • 316,881 accounts
      • Low-usage - single family homes, 2-flats
      • 20% of water revenue
      • Based on the lot size, # of fixtures, etc.
  • 3. Chicago Metering History
    • Metering Challenges
      • Geographic
      • Manual meter reading
      • Historical myth
      • Aging infrastructure
    • Conservation Challenges
      • Big blue lake!
      • Carrot but no stick
    • Solution
      • Phase 1: Change the Mindset
      • Phase 2: Tackle Remaining
    Chicago has proposals for universal metering dating to 1900!
  • 4. Purpose of Project
    • Create a program to meter residential accounts that will
      • Change the mindset regarding water meters
      • Get as many people metered as possible
      • Encourage water conservation
    • Options considered
      • Meter upon property transfer (FPC)
        • Burdensome for real estate industry
        • Difficult to get buy-in from City Council
        • Installation scheduling & location challenges
      • Mandatory, geographic-based (block by block)
        • Almost impossible to get buy-in from City Council
        • Home owners won’t be home during the day, won’t let us in
      • Voluntary
        • Easy pass through City Council but hard to get enough volunteers
  • 5.
    • A novel, hybrid approach
      • Voluntary – customer friendly
      • Incentive-based
        • Financial: 7-year guarantee that metered bill will not exceed what the assessed billing rate would have been
        • Conservation: Choice of water conservation tool: indoor kit, outdoor kit, rain barrel, or meter monitor
        • Information: Get an AMR meter w/leak detection, profile
      • Geographic-based
        • Scheduling is done on a ward by ward basis – efficient
    • Participants must pay bills on time
    • Guarantee does not transfer to new property owners
    • Limited to first 20,000 volunteers annually
    Decision: M eter S ave
  • 6. Benefits of M eter S ave
    • Reduced bill : Based on results in other large cities, the avg. customer’s bill will by 17-33%
      • Currently the data we have is showing more than 50% savings
    • Equity for customer : Water bill is based on actual usage – use less, pay less
    • Done at no cost to the customer : meter and installation free of charge & offer a water saving incentive
    • Frequent, smaller bill: Metered bill is sent every 2 months — that means a smaller bill on a regular basis — easier to budget
    to the customer
  • 7.
    • System efficiency: Easier identification of leaks within the distribution system
    • System accountability: How much water is actually pumped & consumed - in keeping with the Mayor’s Water Agenda
    5 Benefits of M eter S ave to the City of Chicago
    • Reduce wasted water: Chicago & NE IL could face a severe water shortage by 2050 if we fail to plan for the future (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, July ’08)
  • 8. So what is the message?
    • Water meters will
      • help make homeowners more conscious of water usage
      • ensure the long-term sustainability of our water infrastructure & our continued access to a clean water supply
    8 30 MGD = 300,000 addt’l customers
  • 9. How do we market the message?
    • Two main population segments:
      • Save water, “green” people
      • Save money people
    • Marketing provided the framework for IT and Operational changes
      • Make volunteering, scheduling and installation easy, minimally disruptive & user friendly
    • Barebones budget
    • 20,000 limit annually – can’t be too successful!
  • 10. How can customers request a meter? 311 Call Center MeterSave.org website Automated Phone System Website allows for scheduling of water meter installation!
  • 11. Technology Initiatives Achieved in an Accelerated Time-Frame
    • Enrollment in MeterSave
      • By phone to a person (3-1-1 and Customer Service Reps)
      • By phone to a computer (updated entire IVR phone tree)
      • By website with email confirmation (Novel)
    • Scheduling Meter Installation Neighborhood by Neighborhood
      • By phone with a person
      • By phone with automated alert system
      • By website
  • 12. Technology Initiatives Achieved in an Accelerated Time-Frame (cont’d)
    • Installation of AMR Meter
      • Paper-heavy workorders  Automated, paperless system
      • Interface between work order system and billing & collection system
      • Handheld devices for installers
      • Real-time upload to systems
      • Alternative installation methods—compression & crimp fittings
      • Photos of installers on website
    • Billing for Water Usage
      • New bill format
      • Tracks annual cap – part of 7-year guarantee
    • Post-Installation
      • QA/QC Post-Cards
      • Testimonials on website
  • 13. Testimonials by Neighborhood on the website
  • 14. Marketing: Effect of Non-Metered Bill Advertising Blue lines indicate timing of non-metered bill mailings (sent 2 x per year)
  • 15. Marketing: Neighborhood Ambassador
  • 16. Conclusions
    • The word is spreading!
      • Almost 10,000 volunteers to date
    • People are saving money!
      • Avg. savings is over 50% to date
    • People are saving water!
      • Customers say they pay more attention to their water use
    • Effect of the economy
      • people are looking for ways to save money
      • however, no $ for a professional marketing campaign
    • Huge IT and Operational changes were needed to make the process fast & effective
      • Over 4,500 meters installed so far; goal for 2011 is 7,000 more!
      • Work culture change - paperless, automated, website driven
  • 17. Questions & Answers 11