Look out Victorian water customers – your utility may be rolling out smart meters!

It appears that water corporations have failed to heed the lessons learnt from the Victorian electricity smart meter debacle.

Nine out of seventeen water utilities in Victoria are contemplating, or have started, smart water meter rollouts.  The water businesses seem to be under the collective delusion that re-badging smart meters as ‘digital’ meters, ‘intelligent’ meters, or ‘data loggers’ will be the game-changer that allows them to avoid the Victorian electricity smart meter stigma.

Final pricing decisions handed down by the Essential Services Commission (ESC) for each of the corporations revealed an abundance of dubious claims made by water utilities about smart meters.  These include:

  • Digital metering will contribute to “efficiency savings and lower costs and customer prices”.

(Really? Perhaps the utility propagating this myth should read what the Auditor General had to say about Victoria’s costly rollout of electricity smart meters.)

  • Had “strong customer support for digital metering”.

(Does it? That’s news to us! SSMA also wonders if this utility has strong customer support for increased pulsed microwave irradiation of their properties and communities?)

  • Customers have requested digital water metering to enable them to “better monitor and manage their water consumption”.

(Exactly how difficult is it to walk out to one’s water meter to check usage?  Victorian electricity customers have hardly fallen over themselves to access on-line consumption data.  According to the 2015 technical study commissioned by the Victorian government, the capability included with Victorian smart meters to enable energy management via Home Area Networks “is rarely employed at present”.)

A snapshot in regard to the utilities in Victoria that are tangoing with smart meters follows:

Barwon Water is “commencing a transition to digital water meters, by starting with a trial project at Colac”.

Central Highlands Water has proposed “a full roll-out of digital meters across its entire water supply network, to be completed within the 2018–23 period. It has completed a proof-of-concept trial and has demonstrated strong customer support for digital metering”.

City West Water has “uncertainty in timing, cost, scope or benefits” of a smart meter rollout.  However, its webpage states that it is “working with South East Water and Yarra Valley Water to explore digital water metering”.

Coliban Water, in response to a number of submissions from the public to the ESC expressing alarm about its intended rollout, has committed to undertake an independent peer review to confirm whether the rollout should continue.  It has also “sought to address concerns by developing a policy for the conditional opt-out from digital meter installation for customers with genuine health concerns and for the voluntary take-up of time-of-use tariffs”.

Goulburn Valley Water is “introducing digital services in response to feedback that customers value real time notifications”.

GWMWater plans to improve outcomes for customers by “extending digital metering from rural to urban customers, contributing to efficiency savings and lower costs and customer prices”.

North East Water “has $1.00 million of capital expenditure for a smart water meter trial. Its customers [we doubt it] requested smart water meters to enable them to better monitor and manage their water consumption.”

South East Water: “has established an appropriate set of criteria to evaluate its digital meter pilot program before preparing a business case to proceed with a broader roll-out.”

Yarra Valley Water: “advised it would undertake a digital water metering pilot.”

For previous posts on this issue, see:
Water authorities rolling out wireless smart meters!
Smart water meter “trials” have commenced!

Victorian water corporations are entirely owned by, and report to, the Victorian Government.  If you wish to raise concerns about the rollout of smart water meters in Victoria, write to the Hon. Lisa Neville, Minister for Water: lisa.neville@parliament.vic.gov.au 

Make sure that you also copy in the Managing Director of your own water utility!

 “There’s a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up.”
 — Malala

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11 Responses to Look out Victorian water customers – your utility may be rolling out smart meters!

  1. Rachael says:

    South East Water in Melbourne sent us a letter to say they would be swapping our water meter for a ‘digital water meter’ as part of a trial. The way the letter is worded, one would think you don’t have an option in the matter. However just before I sent my email to SEW advising that we do not wish to participate in this trial, nor do we want a digital/smart/wireless water meter installed on our property at any stage, I went to their website and found out on the FAQ page that to opt out of this trial all you need to do is email them. They have not disclosed this information on the letter (re the option of opting out of the trial) as obviously they want residents to think they have no say in the matter. It will be interesting to see if they give the option of opting out of having these water meters installed once the trial is over and they decide to install them on all properties (it’s highly unlikely they will provide the option to opt out).

    • Rachael Barker says:

      Ooh I already received a reply and seems they have opted us out of receiving any digital water meter going forward. I didn’t think it would be this easy! Here is their reply: “Thank you for your email. I have cancelled your digital meter exchange going ahead. I have also added a note to your account that you do not wish to be a part of this trial or any future digital meter exchange, so your meter will be omitted from the digital meter exchange program going forward.
      There are no lead service lines going into your property or in your street relative to a digital meter, the digital meter is battery operated and gets its information from the cell towers.
      I have also passed your concerns that the letter does not mention an opt out option for this trial to our Customer Engagement team who oversee these letters.”

      • Cathy says:

        How good is that!!
        Thanks for sharing and well done for ticking them off for not mentioning the opt out option in the letter to you. It’s scary to think how many people will fall for these tactics and simply accept a “digital” water meter.

  2. Marita says:

    I was wondering the same thing Gerard. I managed to avoid getting an electricity meter, despite them threatening me with everything they could think of!

  3. EJ says:

    Our meter was replaced around two years ago, no notification, nothing. Since this time, our bills have increased, without any changes to our actual usage. Be warned.

  4. Gerhard says:

    As the water meter is not usual protected by a box (like the electricity meter) the question is – What can one do to avoid the instalation of the so called digital water meter?

    • Brenda says:

      Perhaps place a box over your existing meter. Steel frame and wire mesh with the panel flap left open so the numbers can be read. Turning water off to your property is never really an emergency action like turning off the electricity…

      • Allison Thorne says:

        The question is how do you install a box around your water meter in a way where the box is secure and cannot be removed. You can’t bolt it into the soil.

    • Let's get real about RF says:

      Another issue is that water meters don’t last very long, in comparison to spinning dial electricity meters.
      It’s ironic that water companies claim that smart meters will contribute to “efficiency savings”. When our water meter died last year it took our utility almost 3 months, after discovering the problem, before they got around to giving us a new one. Perhaps this is the sort of efficiency they should be working on!

    • Andrew Samman says:

      Very good question, however, very hard to answer.
      In most suburbia applications the water meter is mounted at the front of the property surrounded by lawn or garden bed. A custom built cage can be built to allow access for the meter reader & the tap before the meter to allow a plumber to turn off the water in an emergency/maintenance situation, but restrict access to the meters plumbing connections. The next problem is securing the cage to the ground. Possible methods are using long metal stakes or concrete pads on each side of the meter to bolt the cage too. Unfortunately, I have a cheap battery powered angle cutter that will make short work of removing any such cage. I’m sure the meter installers would carry such equipment.

      If you return home to find a new “digital meter” (my old water meter already gives a digital readout!) installed, then it would be very easy to make a cheap meter cover box that will block the RF signals from the meter.

      I also note that SE Water has already trialled smart water meters back in 2013.

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