May 29, 2024 - News

New Orleans water bills jump with new smart meter installations

The top of a new water meter cover design for New Orleans with a crescent moon and star design.

The new Sewerage and Water Board meter design incorporates the 100-year-old, iconic Ford Meter Box Co. design and the antenna box for the new smart meters. Photo: Courtesy of SWBNO

New Orleans water customers who had a new smart meter installed are finally starting to see "actual" reads come through on their bills.

Why it matters: The smart meters are sending in accurate numbers, and the resulting bills are higher, according to a Sewerage and Water Board spokesperson.

Catch up quick: Smart meters communicate with SWBNO directly, taking out the need for a real, live human to manually read customers' water usage.

  • Smart meter installation began last fall, but it took several months before the SWBNO billing department could start pushing that information through to customers' bills.
  • Go deeper to see a map of where smart meters have already been installed.

By the numbers: New Orleans water customers with 5/8" and 1" water lines are seeing an average bill increase of 10%, or about $12 monthly, according to SWBNO spokeswoman Grace Birch.

  • Customers with 1.5" and 2" water lines are seeing an even bigger average increase of 17%, she says.
  • So far, there are 17,900 active smart meters in New Orleans' system, which represents 12.8% of the total. That'll more than double in the next three months, Birch says.

As they're installed, customers will see the impact of the smart meter on their next billing cycles.

How it works: If you look at your water bill, there's a chart at the top that helps explain how the utility came up with the numbers in it.

  • An "actual" read means the utility actually read your meter, whether by sending a person out to read it or by communicating with a smart meter.
  • An "estimate" means the utility is making an informed guess at your usage because it wasn't able to get an actual read that month.
  • Smart meters "nearly eliminate" the need for estimated bills, SWBNO says, and capture a read every hour once they're up and running.

Zoom in: Birch says SWBNO is transitioning customers with higher bills since smart meter installation — either due to previous billing anomalies or continuous water use — by capping increases at 20% more than a customer's 12-month average.

  • The utility is also finding possible leaks because of the smart meters, and informing customers when they do.

What's next: New Orleans water customers will be able to get instant access to their smart meter data, including alerts of potential leaks.

Meanwhile: The start of smart meter installation in Jefferson Parish was delayed to 2025 after a vendor successfully challenged the parish's contracting process, according to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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