Smart Water Meters - FAQ page

Below, please find a list of frequently asked questions to help learn more about why Bellevue Utilities is making this change and how the technology can benefit you. 

Can't find the answer to your question? Please contact SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov


Smart Water Meter Upgrade

When will my meter be upgraded to a Smart Water Meter?

We anticipate that commercial meters will be installed in 2020 and residential meters in 2021. The graphic below shows the current Smart Water Meter project schedule.

Smart Water Meter Project Timeline

We will communicate with all our customers before, during, and after the installation process. Look to this website, your billing newsletter, and mailers as sources of information for updates on when installation will occur in your home or business.

What can I expect when my Smart Water Meter is installed?

For most customers, the impacts from installation will be minimal.

  • We respect your time: Replacing the water meter requires only a short interruption to water service. Most installations will take less than 15 minutes, so your water will just need to be shut off briefly.
     
  • No home entry: Smart Water Meters will be replaced outside, exactly where your current water meter is. Since the meter is outside, no one will need to come into your home.
     
  • No surprises: Prior to the installation, Bellevue Utilities will leave a notice letting you know when the change will happen. On your installation date, an authorized installer will knock on your door prior to the installation to let you know that they would like to switch your water meter. If you are not home, the installer will leave a door tag letting you know that your meter has been changed and who to contact if you have any questions or concerns.
     
  • We respect your privacy: Bellevue Utilities and its contractors will not ask any residents for identification at any time before, during, or after installation.
     
  • We respect your property: Bellevue Utilities can complete most meter upgrades without disturbing the area around the meter box. If the installer cannot access the meter box, or major vegetation trimming or meter site changes are required, you will be contacted first. Our goal is to leave the meter site in an ‘as-good or better’ condition when the work is complete. You can help prevent access issues by ensuring your meter box is clear of any obstacles or debris prior to installation.

How much will this new system cost customers? How is it being paid for?

The new Smart Water Meter system is expected to enhance operational efficiencies and generate more accurate readings of water use. Over its 20-year lifespan, Bellevue Utilities projects the $23 million investment in the Smart Water Meter upgrade will cost less than the manually-read meter system we have today. Furthermore, the Smart Water Meters project will not result in any additional rate increases.

Will Smart Water Meters cause my water bill to increase?

Smart Meters will ensure that customers are billed for the water they use—no more and no less. Each new meter is tested and guaranteed to accurately record water consumption. If a customer’s old meter was under-recording, then they might see a bill increase with the new meter. Accurate meters ensure fairness for all customers by correctly measuring water usage. If you are concerned about an increase in your water bill, please contact our customer service department at SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov or 425-452-6932 so we may address your concerns.

Are Smart Water Meters safe?

Yes. After extensive research and consultation with leading experts, Bellevue Utilities is confident Smart Water Meters are safe.

The science shows that radio frequency emissions typical of many common household devices, like Smart Water Meters, do not affect health (California Council on Science and Technology, 2011). Radio frequency emissions from Smart Water Meters are far below the limits set by the Federal Communications Commission. One study for the state of Vermont found that radio frequency levels for people standing one foot away from a meter are about 1,500 times below the federal exposure limits for radio frequency emissions (Richard Tell Associates, Inc., 2013).

Smart Water Meters communicate information similarly to other common wireless devices such as cordless phones, baby monitors, garage door openers, Wi-Fi routers, and cell phones. However, Smart Water Meters transmit at lower levels than most of these devices, are located further away—typically outside the home, near the street—and transmit less than 20 seconds per day. The graph below compares Smart Water Meter radio frequency levels to other common household items. Overall, Smart Water Meters create much lower radio frequency exposure than many common home appliances and personal electronics that customers use in their homes throughout the day.

Graph comparing radiofrequency (RF) levels between common sources and smart water meters.

Can I opt out of having my meter upgraded to a Smart Water Meter?

All meters will be replaced during the Smart Water Meter project. However, we are currently in the process of completing a non-standard meter policy that will offer an option for existing customers who do not want their new water meter to have a radio transmitter. This option will involve some costs to cover the staff time and administration involved in continuing to manually read your meter. We will publish the policy and application information to this webpage when it is complete – anticipated in August 2020. Please email SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov if you would like to be contacted about this option when it is ready.

Where can I learn more about Smart Water Meters?

Bellevue Utilities will be communicating with all our customers before, during, and after the city-wide installation process. Look to this website, your billing newsletter, and mailers as sources of information. Questions about the program can be directed to SmartWater@bellevuewa.gov or 425-452-6932.


Project Benefits

Why upgrade?

Right now, water meter readers visit homes and businesses to manually record water usage every two months. With smart meters, water usage will be transmitted wirelessly to the utility company every day. This secured, encrypted data will be accessible to customer service representatives and to customers through an Online Customer Portal. Instead of once every two months, customers will be able to monitor their water use in near-real time as well as to find and fix leaks faster—potentially saving both time and money.

Diagram of how smart water meters work.

Will I be able to see my water usage online?

Your new Smart Water Meter will provide you with nearly real-time data about your water usage, which you can track through a forthcoming Online Customer Portal. Through the portal, you will be able to manage your account, see your water usage patterns, identify potential ways to save water and money, and spot leaks quickly.

How can Smart Water Meters save me money?

The Smart Water Meter program makes it easy to identify a leak and alert the affected customer much more quickly than was possible with manual meter reading. With manual meter reading, leaks could go undetected for weeks or months, leaving customers responsible for paying bills that ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Your new Smart Water Meter will provide you with nearly real-time data about your water usage, and spotting leaks early can save you time and money.

How will Smart Water Meters benefit the environment?

Smart Water Meters will mean fewer meter-reading vehicles on the road, thus reducing Bellevue Utilities’ carbon footprint. Today, meter readers drive more than 50,000 miles annually throughout the service area to record customer data. That represents 50 tons of CO2 emissions.*

*Average odometer reading of Meter Reader Jeep: 42,000 (in service 4 years). Average fuel usage per Meter Reader Jeep years 2014 and 2015: 1,008 gallons per year. Miles per year: 42,000/4 years in service x 5 Jeeps = approximately 50,000 combined annual miles. One gallon of gasoline burned = 19.6 pounds of CO2. Therefore, 1,008 gallons of gas per year x 5 Jeeps = 98,784 pounds or approximately 50 tons of CO2.

How do Smart Water Meters fit in to the City of Bellevue Smart Cities initiative?

Smart Water Meters are the first of many new Smart Cities initiatives, which will implement city-wide technologies that make use of near real-time data and integrate systems to make better use of existing data. Check out the Smart Cities website to learn more.


Data Security and Privacy

Will my water-use information be secure?

Bellevue Utilities takes the privacy of your information seriously.

The Smart Water Meters will not store or transmit your personal identifying information (such as name, address, or account number). Only the meter number, amount of water used, and equipment information will be sent through the wireless network. Similar to many online transactions, the network will have multiple layers of protection. All transmitted information will be secure and protected through encryption within the network.

What will my water consumption data be used for?

Beyond billing and leak detection, Bellevue Utilities will only use water consumption data to plan, maintain, and develop the city water system. As Bellevue grows and changes, the Smart Water Meter program will help us maintain a potable water system that is flexible, reliable, and able to meet our customers’ needs.

How will Bellevue Utilities protect my privacy?

Bellevue Utilities is committed to protecting the personal information of our customers. Personally identifiable information (such as name, address, or account number) is not stored in the Smart Water Meter nor is it sent through the wireless network. Only the meter number, the amount of water used, and information about the proper functioning of the equipment will be sent through the wireless network.

Additionally, installers will not enter your home, obtain your identification information, or have access to your online account and password, if you have one.