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After failed attempt, San Diego plans to 'redeploy' smart water meter program

The city is set to deploy its smart water meter program again in May in an effort to switch from manual read meters to wireless smart meters.

SAN DIEGO — Next month, the city will take the first steps in restarting its smart water meter program, also known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

The program will replace manually-read meters which require meter readers to physically read water meters and log the numbers into a database to wireless smart meters which are capable of transmitting the data directly to the city's servers. 

The city's first deployment of thousands of wireless water meters didn't go as planned and resulted in budget overruns estimated at more than $16 million, mismanagement, and staffing shortages.

Those issues and more were uncovered in a 99 page 2019 City Auditor Report

Credit: KFMB

Many residents complained about the smart water meters accuracy while at the same time random billing issues popped up throughout the city, with thousands of city water customers complaining about excessive bills.

By 2019, the city halted the AMI program.

Currently, city crews have installed approximately 129,000 wireless water meters while only 23,000 are actually connected to the network and sending water usage data wirelessly.

Now, the city has confirmed it was set to "redeploy" the AMI system but with some major changes to the program.

According to city documents, the city will spend up to $30 million for new meters over the coming years. It also hired Jacobs, an engineering technical professional services firm, to oversee the deployment, a step that wasn't taken on the first go-around.

The city says this time Jacobs and city staff will work together to not repeat past mistakes.

"The city brought in the expertise of Jacobs to evaluate the city’s revised approach in redeploying AMI, which takes into consideration the city’s prior experience to ensure this second approach is successful," a city spokesperson tells CBS 8.

Not all San Diego taxpayers are thrilled with the idea. 

“I am not confident at all in this program," said San Diego resident, Rey Vinole. "In fact, we the voters of San Diego, need to hold our city officials accountable and do an investigation. Are these really smart meters? Or are they thief meters? Because we certainly don’t want to be paying a whole lot more."

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