Jackson may fix two water issues at once

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Jackson city leaders are considering a way to solve water pressure issues and improve water-meter technology at the same time.

The city has invested $1.3 million in new water pumps and wells to increase water pressure in certain areas of the city.

However, it has been recently discovered that the upgrades have pushed the water pressure too high in some places, meaning as many as 1,000 homes would need special pressure-release valves.

In the past, the city has faced this issue and provided the valves, at roughly $40 apiece, to 40 or so homes. The valves were installed by the homeowners at their expense. Roach said installation could cost $100 to $200.

This time around, there are many more homes. Horner and Shifrin, a St. Louis firm that installed the water pumps, is looking at ways to juggle the system to reduce the number of places that would need valves.

By installing a small section of water line along Shawnee Boulevard and manipulating the flow with valves, Horner and Shifrin said at Monday night's study session, it can get the number of places needing valves down to about 125 on the east side of town and still maintain proper water pressure and water volume for firefighting.

Automatic teaders

Meanwhile, a national energy-control firm, Johnson Controls, approached the board of aldermen two weeks ago about helping the city upgrade its water meter system. After spending several days in the city, Johnson Controls personnel told the city it could save $340,000 to $370,000 over the next 15 years by upgrading to automatic meters. The automatic readers, which would be installed in six months in Johnson Control's plan, would transmit usage information to city hall, meaning the city would no longer need meter readers.

The new system would also charge more accurately, boosting the city's revenue. Johnson Controls estimated the Jackson water department had a 13 percent loss of water revenue, saying that water well meters are not tested or calibrated annually for accuracy.

The upgrade would cost the city $3.3 million to $3.6 million.

But Roach said Monday night that the city might be able to solve both the water pressure and meter upgrade problems at once, if the board was OK with phasing in the new technology over 10 or so years. He said the city staff could install the pressure-release valves at the 125 homes and businesses while at the same time install the new automatic readers.

Then, Roach said, the city could install a few hundred new automatic readers each year.

For this year, Roach said, he thought it might be possible to get the system going for the same amount of money the city budgeted for meter replacement anyway, which is $35,000.

There are approximately 5,800 meters in the city's system.

The board has directed Roach to look more into the specific costs of the automatic reader upgrades.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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