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Water Bill Investigation: City unveils new water testing equipment

After more than a month of complaints from upset residents over their massive water bills, the City of San Diego is introducing new water meter testing equipment.

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — After more than a month of complaints from upset residents over their massive water bills, the City of San Diego unveiled new water meter testing equipment.

The upgraded equipment comes after several News 8 viewers expressed concerns over sky rocketing water bills.

Compared to its predecessor, which had been in use for 50 years, the Public Utilities Department's newest machine for testing water meters is a game changer.

"The degree of accuracy, the precision - it's just the next level in the industry for testing water meters," said Tom Howard from the PUD.

It's called the Mars system and cost $400,000.

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It's mostly automated, which means employees no longer have to watch dials move or manually stop the machine.

It's also faster, has three-point decimal accuracy and can test more meters at the same time.

"It's like you're having a vehicle by a particular auto maker: tou had a 1963 model of that vehicle and now you have the 2018 model of that vehicle," said Johnny Mitchell who showed News 8 how the system works.

A specific amount of water runs through a line, meters record the number and those recordings are then inputted on a tablet.

If the numbers match, the meters are fine.

If they don't, there's a problem.

The new system tests dozens of meters every day and there are dozens more in line.

"We had a bit of a backlog [and] beginning in November we had a spike in requests," said Howard.

City officials purchased the Mars long before hundreds of San Diego residents started questioning their high bills, but the installation was sped up in light of the controversy.

The meters tested are ones from homes where leaks or human error don't appear to be contributing factors to a bill spike.

In addition to testing questionable meters, five percent of all smart meters scheduled for installation are also tested to ensure they will work like they're supposed to.

"[We're] looking at the new technology out there to help us serve our customers better," said Mitchell.


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