CUC to administer water pilot project

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Posted on Nov 17 2020

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The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is looking at initiating a pilot project to install new water meters that will obtain information on advanced metering infrastructure and meter reading, while also having the primary supplier of CUC’s water meter units demonstrate the prepaid water meters.

Speaking at the CUC’s board of directors’ meeting yesterday, CUC executive director Gary Camacho stated that the prepaid water meter will function similar to the kilowatt-hour, electric Nighthawk power meters on all three islands. Camacho said that this is under consideration as a possible efficiency cost reduction opportunity, as well as to enhance meter reading accuracy and reduce non-revenue water loss.

Camacho said that, in tandem with the use of reliable software, having this advanced water meters will allow CUC to “see a lot more” and will know, technically, if somebody’s manipulating the meter or bypassing the meter. This will also help CUC decide in cases where they have to disconnect someone. That means CUC will have the ability to reduce the water supply and not completely shut off someone’s water source, in the event that there’s somebody ill or sick in a household. It will have enough water supply to where they will be able to use just a little water.

“There’s a variety of different functions that we would be able to utilize but, at the end of the day, we would be able to understand and know our system, both on the technical and non-technical side, much more than we currently do now,” said Camacho.

Under the pilot project, CUC is considering installing 20 meters on Rota, 20 on Tinian, and 40 on Saipan.

CUC deputy executive director William Gilmore said part of the reason why there’s no drinking water on the island is that, because of the heat, the solution that makes the water drinkable becomes diluted if the water stops for any time at all. That can cause a blockage of any valves, meters of any kind.

Because of that problem, Saipan isn’t able to have drinking water, he said. But with the water pilot project that they’re introducing, the prepaid meters have this automatic flushing system that will make it possible to have drinking water. Additionally, Gilmore stated that, once a week, it will automatically break loose any buildup in the pipes and it will be flushed immediately.

He said the prepaid meters will be able to maintain accuracy for a 20-year warranty period. “We’re highly interested in having this, because it will cure one of the elements that stand out as a concern for us. It is also guaranteed that the same meter will not read air [when there’s a water outage], and so that’s one of the major benefits that we can eliminate as a concern,” he said.

Camacho stated that CUC has been changing its water meters at least four or five times in the last 10 to 15 years, which has cost them a lot, that the current meters that they spent money on are failing in the same way the previous meters have.

The time and effort involved in buying the previous water meters, plus the inefficiencies such as water loss incurred over many years, add up to the costs of CUC, Camacho said.

The new meters will “speak” to CUC and they’ll start to see things right away, he added.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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