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Frequently Asked Questions from August 9, 2018 Town Hall (Printable PDF)
What Type of Water Meter Does the City Use?
The City of Melissa uses a Turbine Meter made by Master Meter. A water meter is a mechanical device that tracks usage flowing through it. Water meters are considered "Smart Meters" when used alongside an AMI system. In and of itself, meters are just mechanical measuring devices.
How does my meter work?
When water is used by a customer, water flows through the meter creating energy that rotates a pinwheel rotor within the flow stream. Water through a meter is measured proportionally by the speed of water through a meter. Each revolution of the pinwheel causes the dial to move and track the water through the meter. A meter reading stops when the flow stops and picks up where it left off once flow continues for the accumulation of volume.
How can I check for a leak?
Turn off all water sources within and outside of your house and then open the meter box to access the meter (if you are unable to open the meter box lid easily, you can purchase a water meter box key at any hardware store) and then flip open the black meter register cover. When opening the meter box, please make sure to do so slowly and carefully, as the City’s AMI equipment is generally mounted to the bottom of the meter box lid and is connected via a wire to the meter register. Once you have flipped open the meter register cover, look at the red dial on top of the meter. If the dial is spinning and you are sure that all water sources are turned off, then you may have a leak.
If you do determine that you have a leak, you may contact the City of Melissa Utility Billing Department about a Leak Adjustment.
How can I test my meter for accuracy?
The easiest and most cost-efficient way to test the accuracy of a meter is to conduct a bucket test. To conduct a bucket test, first, turn off all water sources within and outside the home. Open the meter box and take a manual read of the meter. If you are unable to open the meter box lid easily, you can purchase a water meter box key at any hardware store. When opening the meter box, please make sure to do so slowly and carefully, as the City’s AMI equipment is generally mounted to the bottom of the meter box lid and is connected via a wire to the meter register. Next, fill a 5-gallon bucket with water from your home. Return to the meter and verify that the read increased by only 5 gallons. If only 5 gallons are measured, the meter is measuring accurately.
I've conducted my own bucket test and I still don't believe my meter is working properly. What are my options?
Upon request, the City of Melissa will send your meter to a third-party testing company for testing of accuracy. Once the meter is tested by the third-party and generates a report with the findings, the meter is mailed back to the City. If the third-party deems the meter has passed (meter meets or exceeds American Water Works Association (AWWA) specifications) the meter is returned to the customer and reinstalled. The cost of third-party meter testing is $105.00 ($75.00 for testing and $30.00 for shipping costs). Customers are only responsible for testing costs if the meter passes and meets AWWA specifications.
Do mechanical meters slow down or speed up over a lifespan?
Mechanical meters generally slow down over time causing the pinwheel revolution to move slower than its factory conditions, which results in the meter measuring less water. When this occurs, the meter becomes marginally less accurate and measures less water than is flowing through the meter. The City of Melissa has a meter replacement program to help ensure that water continues to be measured accurately over time. Mechanical meters cannot be manipulated.
What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)?
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is what makes a mechanical meter a "Smart Meter." AMI does not alter a meter’s measuring capability but simply serves as a data collector that then transmits data to a third party for data management. AMI allows customers to see their usage data during a billing cycle. Learn more about the City's AMI Program.
How does the AMI system work with my meter?
Each customer meter is fitted with a Meter Transmission Unit (MTU) within the meter box. The City of Melissa uses Aclara Meter Transmission Units. Each hour, the MTU reads the mechanical meter and sends the read to Data Collection Units (DCU) throughout the City. The City currently has 6 active DCUs. Four times daily, the DCUs send data to Network Control Computers (NCC).
Please note, that a threshold of up to 24 hours should be given due to possible timing. The customer will need to take written notes of the onsite reading and times, then check the online system later to compare the digital data to the physically viewed information. If there is an issue with a particular hourly read, the next batch should send over the new readings and it levels out within that transmission period. The NCC database collects, validates, processes, stores, and transmits meter readings which eventually result in a customer bill. Learn more about the Aclara STAR Network: https://msps.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/STAR_NCC.pdf
Is the Meter Transmission Unit (MTU) a meter?
No. An MTU is simply a transmitting device. An MTU simplifies and expedites how meter reads are conducted.
How can I test my Meter Transmission Unit (MTU) for accuracy?
With customer’s having access to their usage data, they can verify or "test" the physical meter read against the data provided by the AMI system. Please note, that a threshold of up to 24 hours should be given due to possible timing. The customer will need to take written notes of the onsite reading and times, then check the online system later to compare the digital data to the physically viewed information. If you would like further clarification or help obtaining your data for comparison, please contact Carrie Mikeska at firstname.lastname@example.org or (972) 838-1082.
Will the City consider extending the leak adjustment application acceptance window to longer than within thirty (30) days of the leak repair?
The Leak Adjustment Policy is reviewed periodically throughout the year, but at this time the policy is still active. Any leak adjustment request that would extend beyond the 30 day period the leak is first noted via the electronic meter reading data, will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. We are always here to help and will strive to make adjustments accordingly based upon an equal platform for all customers (shareholders) of the Melissa Water System and Utility Billing Department. If you run into a leak repair situation that extends beyond normal circumstances, please contact Carrie Mikeska at email@example.com or (972) 838-1082.
Are City of Melissa Utility Billing and Fathom the same thing?
No. Fathom is a thirty-party data processor and utility billing contractor based out of Phoenix, AZ that handles setting up accounts, invoice generation and distribution, taking payments, and first-level customer service for the City. While Fathom is a vital component of the City’s utility billing operations, the City of Melissa still has a Utility Billing Department housed in Melissa City Hall that handles bill adjustments, works directly with City of Melissa builders, and facilitates complex customer service issues. Fathom works for and in conjunction with the City of Melissa. If you have customer service issues with Fathom, please let Carrie Mikeska know at firstname.lastname@example.org or (972) 838-1082.
If the City had irrigation-specific water meters, would it help my sewer bill?
Not necessarily. To mitigate the effects of high irrigation months on a customer’s sewer bill, the City of Melissa uses Winter Quarter Averaging for residential customers. Every year, each customer’s December, January, and February water meter readings are averaged together to arrive at a sewer consumption amount to be billed for the next twelve (12) months. Since these wintertime months are generally indicative of basic and essential water usage, customers are not being charged sewer consumption for what is usually higher water usage due to irrigation in the summer months.
How are water rates established each year through the Water Rate Study?
The Water Rate Study is an accumulation of over 200 man-hours of staff members, City Engineer, City Manager, Mayor and Council. The following are some of the variables that are considered and included in reviewing current rates and developing proposed rates: 3 different water supplies, North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), Collin Grayson Municipal Alliance (CGMA), and well water; different water costs per 1,000/gallons; Minimum Take or Pay contracts; debt reallocation based on usage for CGMA bond structure; percentage of distribution per tier levels; consumption sold; wholesale flow of water and wastewater; growth of meters; Winter Quarter Average trends; usage trends; rate structure options; new capital projects; Department budgets estimated expenses for current year; Department budgets proposed expenses for new year; and estimate of remaining sales for current year based on trends.
The following is a pie chart of the 6 components of the rates. The rates are not just the wholesale costs. The Water Fund is a non-profit fund; therefore, the rates only cover costs to cover Fund expenses.
What is a "take or pay" contract?
The “take or pay” term used to describe the water supply contract means that the cities pay the fixed costs component of the wholesale water rate based on highest year of consumption, even if in subsequent years they don’t reach that same level of water use. This ensures the fixed system costs are covered regardless of the amount of water used. The cities and their customers receive an annual rebate for the variable costs, such as chemicals and power not used for treatment and delivery, based on each city’s actual consumption for that year.
Cities don’t pay for “unused” water – they pay an allocation of the regional water infrastructure and system costs based upon the maximum amount of potential capacity each city needs. The cities and their customers are paying for water service, not just the water molecules that are delivered.
Learn more about how North Texas Municipal Water District sets their rates
Why use a tiered rate structure?
A tiered rate structure encourages water conservation by rewarding efficient use of water and reducing peak demands. Based on 2017-18 winter quarter average water use data, the City’s lowest tier (0-10,000 gal/month) provides sufficient water to cover water use for basic and essential needs for 97% of Melissa’s residential water customers. The first and second tiers (up to 15,000 gal/month) provide sufficient water to cover water use for basic and essential needs for 99.5% of Melissa’s residential water customers. Water usage in excess of basic and essential needs is non-essential and non-efficient discretionary use of water such as irrigation, swimming pool maintenance, car washing, etc. The discretionary use is usually seen in the summer months and drives water facility storage, distribution, and pumping facility sizing to meet peak summer demands. Therefore, the discretionary high water uses pay a higher tier to offset the increased costs of sizing facilities to meet peak, discretionary demands.