“Smart Meters” Help Long Beach Crack Down on Water Wasters

New high-tech "smart meters" are helping the city of Long Beach crack down on water wasters.

Using radio frequency technology, the meter can remotely track a suspected water waster's use in five minute increments. The meter measures not just the monthly water consumption, but if that home or business is violating the law.

"It is two days of watering a week - Monday and Thursdays - 10 minutes per station. You're not supposed to excessively water so that there is runoff onto the sidewalk," said Tai Tseng, director of operations at the Long Beach Water Department.

Water officials say they've seen a difference after installing the device.

"One of them has reduced their consumption by 88 percent since we put the smart meter in. So in most cases, absolutely, it changes their behavior quickly," said LBWD general manager Kevin Wattier. "They know we're watching and you can't hide."

Wattier said only a few of those targeted have yet to change their watering - a McDonald's.

An electronic meter indicated the fast-food restaurant was flooding its landscape in the middle of the night. The violation led to an $800 fine.

McDonald's issued a statement saying it wants to be a good neighbor and that it met with water officials last week to address the problem.

But the smart meter noticed the restaurant was back to flooding its landscape again on Sunday.

Hundreds of homeowners have asked for the smart meters, water officials say. That's because not only the city can watch when and where the spigot is on, but homeowners such as Christie and Ted Kane can monitor it as well.

"We want to know when we're using water and how much we're using," he said.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said it is looking into the smart meter use as a way to help fight the drought.

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