The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 appropriated $2 billion to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) to help states finance infrastructure projects deemed vital to the safety of the nation’s drinking water supply. Projects pertaining to upgrades of existing water meters as well as new installations are eligible for grants under the program.
The Green Project Reserve (GPR)
The ARRA rules stipulate that states receiving DWSRF funding must set aside at least 20 percent of their allocation for green projects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referred to this provision as the Green Project Reserve (GPR), which encompasses programs for green infrastructure, energy or water efficiency and environmentally innovative designs.
As of February 2010, the majority of GPR projects were related to water efficiency. A substantial percentage of these projects entailed system upgrades to address a backlog of unmetered usage situations.
Communities and utilities interested in GPR funding must submit a business case and contact their respective State Revolving Fund (SRF) program administrator. In accordance with business case guidelines, potential water and energy efficiency projects should result in a significant cost savings over the current system and shall also be the prime, rather than incidental, project benefit.
Water Meter Accuracy
As water meters age, they register consumption less accurately. Degradation of accuracy results in undetected consumption and less revenue for the water authority to cover operating and maintenance expenses. Further, the inability to meter true consumption defeats water conservation measures. For these reasons, water meters should be replaced every 15 to 20 years to modernize aging plants and improve water usage efficiency.
Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) Technology
Newer water meters are equipped with automatic meter reading (AMR) technology. AMR technology incorporates a radio-frequency transmitter within the meter for wireless relay of meter readings, on an hourly or periodic basis, to a remote collection unit. Data from the collection unit is processed to generate monthly customer bills. Through the use of AMR technology, water authorities can also minimize their meter reading field force.
DWSRF Intended Use Plans (IUP)
As part of the ARRA and DWSRF program initiatives, the state of Georgia submitted an Intended Use Plan (IUP) requesting $54,775,000 in AARA capitalization grants and an additional $22,882,000 in annual DWSRF capitalization grants. Georgia’s list of potential green project proposals included a $7.5 million project to replace 60,000 existing water meters with advanced AMR technology and leak-detection capability.
North Carolina’s Intended Use Plan solicited $65,625,000 in DWSRF grants. The application list included $8.3 million for a system-wide AMR water meter upgrade program for the city of Hickory (population 92,000).