About 4,000 Indian Wells Valley residences are fitted with digital meters that automatically relay water use information to the IWV Water District, according to IWVWD Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Keep.

Keep spoke at the monthly IWVWD plants and equipment committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon, offering them an update on the Automated Metering Infrastructure pilot project. The pilot project tests the new AMI system to ensure it's accurate and to work out any bugs before instituting it district-wide.

The digital AMI meters replace traditional analog meters which require staff to drive out to every residence and manually read the meters to track water use. In addition to saving time, IWVWD staff said the AMI meters will also have a system to automatically detect leaks when they happen, rather than relying on users to report leaks whey they receive their monthly bill and notice a significantly higher charge.

Keep told the IWVWD committee that the pilot project is still just getting start, but there are multiple ways it's making progress. She stated that while about 4,000 residences now have digital AMI meters, many are not yet fitted with antennae to automatically transmit data to the IWVWD.

With the residences that are transmitting data, the district is still hammering out kinks in procedure on what to do with the data. "We're still working on our game plan for how we address each and every report," Keep said.

Still, Keep said the AMI pilot project is keeping up with the district's proposed timeline. She reported that there is one route where they have fitted every residence with digital meters which are allowing IWVWD to receive and bill water use data as intended.

"So far, AMI is working great? Exactly as we expected?" asked IWVWD board vice president Chuck Cordell.

"Yes," Keep responded. "We're just tweaking and investigating things."

IWVWD general manager stated that the AMI pilot project began with a six-month timeline in mind, which would set its completion date at some time in August. Keep added that, if necessary, she would recommend the district to extend the pilot project if there were still any signs of hiccups in the system.

The IWVWD website states that AMI system aims to take advantage of the benefits of updated technology. "In addition to automated leak detection, the primary benefits of AMI include reduced staff time needed to read meters and therefore, more staff time to conduct meter-box maintenance and repair and assist customers with water audits. Automated leak detection is critical to the District’s mission to save water and avoid unexpectedly high water bills for customers by early detection of unnecessary water loss such as from running toilets, incorrectly programmed sprinkler systems and broken pipes," the website reads.

However, the program also offers an opt-out program for anyone who would prefer to keep the manual meter. Customers can opt out of the AMI system by filing the opt out form on the IWVWD's website and paying a $25 monthly fee to cover staff time manually reading and logging water use information.

Zdeba noted that, thus far, the opt out program has a total of one member.