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Roseville becomes fully metered city

Completes decade-long retrofit project with last install Tuesday
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Roseville’s transition to a fully metered city officially finished Tuesday with the last meter installation, although the majority of the retrofit project ended a few months ago.

Mayor Pauline Roccucci helped place the meter in the Misty Woods Neighborhood in north Roseville, wrapping up a decade-long effort to install about 16,000 water meters outside all remaining unmetered houses throughout the city.

The project started in July 2001 after three years of preparation. Installations went neighborhood by neighborhood.

“Installing water meters is an important tool that helps our water customers understand their water usage and in some cases, lower their utility bill,” Roccucci said. “But more importantly, becoming a fully metered city, helps define Roseville and the region as leaders in water-use efficiency in this state. (We) take water efficiency seriously. It is our obligation to always keep future generations in mind.”

An unfunded state mandate requires all cities to be fully metered by 2025.

John Woodling, director of the Regional Water Authority, said a decade ago one-third of water connections were metered and now more than two-thirds are, making meters “the rule rather than the exception.”

Newer development in Roseville includes meters with construction, said the city’s Water Utility Manager Edward Kriz. The city is also working to update apartment complexes and commercial buildings in older neighborhoods with meters.

Meters help manage water resources on a macro level, city officials say. A metered home encourages customers to regularly check their water use on their bill and lower their usage to stop waste and save money, said Derrick Whitehead, director of the city’s environmental utilities department.

“What saves water is the habit — looking at the amount of water usage and making adjustments when necessary,” Whitehead said.

With metered rates, customers pay for the amount of water they actually use — like how gas or electricity services are paid — as opposed to a flat rate.

The technology also helps city staff notice and investigate a potential water problem more quickly, he said. Meters make it easier to spot a leak and to monitor compliance with water restrictions at any given time.

“I’m really appreciative of our customers,” Whitehead said. “They’ve worked with us over time. To have someone dig up your yard to install a meter is a disruption. But they understand the importance and need to use our resources wisely.”

For the past decade, six employees in the environmental utilities department worked on the meter retrofit project, which was funded through a tax surcharge. Now their salaries will be once again covered by the department.

Roseville City Council approved a water rate increase earlier this year in part to pay for these salaries. Residential water rates went up 9.5 percent in August, and will increase another 8.5 percent in 2012.

The water meter retrofit project was expected to cost about $10 million, but came under budget with the help of nearly $3 million worth of equipment and materials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This additional funding allowed Roseville to quit the surcharge collection two years early, Whitehead said.

The water meter retrofit program is a result of Roseville’s commitments made through the Water Forum, which formed in 1993 to address concerns over water supply in the greater Sacramento region and environmental degradation along the lower American River.

Forty stakeholders — water purveyors, environmentalists, agriculturalists, business leaders, and city and county governments in Placer, Sacramento and El Dorado counties — signed an agreement in 2000 to secure the region’s water supply by 2030.

The agreement supports programs that maintain the long-term sustainable yield of the North Area Groundwater Basin, conserve municipal and industrial water use, and protect fish and other public trust assets in the lower American River, according to the Water Forum’s website.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.