My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Why NWC Digital Water Meters means Water Rate Increase coming in 2016

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why NWC Digital Water Meters means Water Rate Increase coming in 2016

“The specific objective of the programme is to increase the operational efficiency of the NWC by improving the quality of its services to Kingston and St Andrew as well as reducing related costs. This includes the reduction of operational expenditure by reducing non-revenue Water while reducing energy costs”

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill during a signing ceremony held on Tuesday November 10 at the NWC’s New Kingston offices.

The NWC (National Water Commission) is finally going digital.

On Tuesday November 10th 2015, the Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill along with management from the NWC signed a US$7.23 million contract with Deryck A. Gibson Limited as reported in the article “NWC Signs US$7.23 Million Contract to Procure Digital Water Meters for KMA”, published November 12, 2015 By Rochelle Williams, The Jamaica Information Service.

This is to procure some 50,000 solid state Water Meters for the KMA (Kingston Metropolitan Area) as they plan to phase out the older mechanical Water meters in 2016 and beyond.

According to Minister of Water, Robert Pickersgill, the Water service in the KMA will be improved during the one year period it'll take to install the digital Water Meters at residential premises and commercial businesses as noted in the article “NWC signs US$7.23m contract to procure digital Water Meters”, published Wednesday, November 11, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

So says the Press Release from the NCW entitled “NWC Buys Solid State Water Meters”.

The new Digital Water Meters differ in that they use an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)readout to display Water used over days, weeks months and even years, making Water wastage for which the NWC has been footing the bill a thing of the past to quote Corporate Public Relations officer at NWC Charles Buchanan:  “If a customer is using 500 gallons of Water per month, but the meter only registered 300 gallons, it simply means that the commission foots the bill for the other unregistered 200 gallons of Water”.

So how do these Digital Meters differ from traditional Mechanical meters?

NWC's Digital Water Meters - Why the NWC Service will be no more as Remotely read Digital Water Meters coming

They can also detects leaks and even be read remotely using wireless readers, meaning that the days of the Service technician coming to your home to read the Water Meter are numbered.

Already, 8000 of these solid-state Digital Water Meters are suppose to have been delivered at the end of November 2015 with the rest, including some 25,000 valves, coming in 2016 as noted in the article “NWC To Get Digital Water Meters”, published Thursday November 12, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner

Some Digital Water Meters can even connect to your Wi-Fi Router, effectively making them smartmeters and thus readable over the internet using an App like the Driblet smart Water Meter as described in “Driblet’s Smart Water Meter Wants To Track Your Home Water Usage”, published Jan 8, 2014by Chris Velazco, Tech Crunch.

It seems that a test run with some five hundred (500) guinea pigs in the Long Mountain Development in 2013 had worked out quite well. So two (2)years later, they expanding it to the rest of the KMA as had been promised by Corporate Public Relations officer at NWC Charles Buchanan, in the article “NWC begins meter replacement programme”, published Monday, January 13, 2014 by Tashauna Taylor, The Jamaica Observer.

But based on our experience with Digital electricity meters, will these new Digital Water Meters result in an increase in our Water bill?

Digital Water Meters vs Mechanical Water Meters – Comparison with JPS Co Digital Smart meters

The answer to that question might be yes but no in the long run. But to come to that conclusion, I shall draw parallels with the rollout of smart Digital meters by JPS Co (Jamaica Public service Company).

When the six thousand (6000) digital electric meters were introduced by JPS Co  back in October 2011 in a test run to replace mechanical meters, many predicted electricity increases as noted in my blog article entitled “JPS Co New Digital Meters are all Smart Meters - Winsome Callum's A Simple Twist of Fate”.  

After all, they are more precise than mechanical meters, recording every Watt of electricity used by your house, especially if you have a habit of leaving things plugged in but not turned on. This phenomenon, called Vampire electricity, resulted in many Jamaicans experiencing inflated electricity bills. But many Jamaicans suspected something else was going on.

Eventually complaints reached the CAC (Consume Affairs Commission) and then the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) was asked to come in and test JPS Co Digital Meters. JPS co was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing as it relates to their Digital meters by the OUR but they were fined for back billing customers as noted in my blog article entitled “JPS Co cleared on Digital SmartMeters but chastized on 10-year backbilling - Future Plans from the Penguins of Madagascar”.  

Still the Digital meters aren't all bad, especially as they are actually Smart meter in disguise that can communicate over wireless Network or via signaling sent over JPS Co's. This hinted at the possibility of Prepaid Power in the future as noted in my 2012 blog article entitled “JPS Co to introduce Prepaid Power and other Services by 2013 - Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn 2 Signals Coming Competition from Alternative Energy”.

Fast forward to the year 2015.

JPS Co has now jumped ahead and after pre-announcing the idea, they now have PAYG (Pay As You Go Prepaid) Electricity being Guinea pig tested by some eight hundred (800) plus customers as noted in my blog article entitled “800 for JPS Co's Prepaid Power in 2 Months - How @myJPSonline PAYG spreading like Wild Fire among 2000 Guinea Pigs in the Summer of 2015”.
So far the users of Prepaid power are proclaiming the benefits of paying for what you want to use. So much so that JPS Co is set to lose some JA$400 million per year if everyone were to switch to Digital meters as noted in the article “JPS Stands To Lose $400m Yearly From Prepaid Meters”, published Sunday December 6, 2015 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner

Still JPS Co has a solution; the OUR could upgrade customer using less than 100 KWh to Rate 10, as these low-power users constitute the bulk of JPS Co's customer base.

NWC Water Rate Increase coming in 2016 - Why Rainwater Harvesting and Recycling Water options needed for Homeowners

Based on what’s going on with JPS Co, one can draw a parallel with the NWC. Clearly these Digital Meters are to more accurately gauge Water usage patterns so that the NWC can also increase their revenue.

Just like vampire electricity being used by equiptment plugged in but not in use, householders with these Digital Water Meters would have to check the house for leakage. Otherwise, they’d see their Water bill rapidly increase once these Digital meters begin to replace the traditional mechanical Water Meters.

However, on the bright side, if the NWC also introduced Prepaid Water (am I saying that right?) then like JPS Co customers, they can see savings by paying for what they want to use.

Hopefully, drawing further parallel with the JPS Co and the gradual rise of Net Billing, to which JPS Co has brought an unceremonious halt as noted in my blog article entitled “JA$4.2 Million Meadowbrook High Solar System - Why JPS Co's Net Billing suspension killing Jamaican Alternative Energy Sector” there should be a similar developement in the Water Sector.

Personal Rainwater Harvesting systems as well as Water Recycling as described in my blog article entitled “Water Wastage at MICO - How Waste Water Recycling and Rainwater Harvesting benefits Agriculture” would be the equivalent of Solar panels.

This would give homeowners options just like Solar power to make it possible to separate from NWC before the new Digital Water Meters run up their Water Bill and raise Water rates to cover the cost of their installation.

Here’s the link:

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