The Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners voted Thursday to approve a “smart meter” program to help customers lower their water consumption — and target those who refuse to comply with conservation measures.
Long Beach Water Department customers are currently allowed to irrigate lawns for 10 minutes two days a week. The restrictions were implemented in November after commissioners declared a Stage 1 water supply shortage.
Despite the limits, some residents continue to water their lawns as many as five times a week for as long as two hours, officials said.
According to the LBWD, about 2 percent of its 90,000 customers, or just fewer than 2,000 accounts, are considered repeat violators of the restrictions.
To take on those flouting the policy — officials fear their example will create a “credibility problem” with those who comply — the department may install “Innov8” smart water meters, a $300 device that fits over existing water meter bodies. The meters are also available for free to the first 100 residents who sign up at www.lbwater.org/smart-meter-program.
The Innov8 meters use Verizon’s wireless network to upload statistics on water usage at regular intervals. The data can be viewed and downloaded on a secure website.
“As California enters its fourth year of drought, Long Beach is experimenting with this new technology to help secure our water supply,” said Board President Harry Saltzgaver, who also serves as executive editor of Gazettes Newspapers, a sister publication of the Press-Telegram.
Long Beach Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier said a pilot program for five high-volume consumers changed water use habits in two cases.
Officials consider the Innov8 meters considerably more cost effective than the $20 million to $30 million it would take for the LBWD to build its own system for all its users, an effort which could take two to three years.
The Water Department has authority to fine residents $200 per day for violating the city’s water use policies.
Fines double after the first day, but the city has never fined a resident for using too much water, relying instead on education as a method to change use patterns.