Most, if not all, of El Campo’s roughly 4,800 water meters are beyond their life expectancy, officials say.

Now a review will be conducted to find out when residential and commercial meters must be replaced. City Council approved the $40,000 Ameresco audit during the consent agenda of the Oct. 28 session.

“Ameresco will collect data and prepare financial analysis of the costs and benefits of upgrades to existing meters,” City Manager Courtney Sladek said in her memo to council.

The study cost, she said, “will be paid through a potential bond issuance, should the city elect to replace the meters. Should the city elect to not replace the meters, this fee will be paid through the operating budget.”

Staff feels the meters are beyond their useful service time.

“The city is experiencing double digit water loss (about 16 percent) or unbilled water (as a result of faulty meters),” Sladek said. The norm, she added, is about 8 percent.

Should water meter replacement be approved, the work would likely begin in the late summer to early fall of 2020.

The city changed out meters in 2004.

A replacement program for the radio portion of the meter started in 2013. The next year, city council approved $75,000 for the effort. Former Public Works Director Clay Harris reported at the April 14, 2014 council session that 850 meters had been replaced as a result of that funding.

More than 3,100 still needed to be replaced. 

The estimated cost for radio portion of the meter to be replaced then was $95 per unit.

A $500,000 tax note was approved April 28, 2014 to replace the parts, a job done in two years.

“The brass bodies are still the original 15 year old units,” Water Superintendent Jerry Lewis said.

The Ameresco study will pull 60 meters around the city and test their workability, providing an opinion on when meter replacement is advisable. “This study will prepare the city for the inevitable replacement of the meters,” Sladek said.

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