Owner unhappy smart meter didn’t catch $5k water leak

Leak wasted nearly half a million litres of water

Darshan Sharma

Despite a high-tech water meter with real-time monitoring, one Abbotsford property owner didn’t know his pipes were leaking until he racked up more than $5,000 in water fees and sent over half a million litres of water down the drain.

Darshan Sharma, who rents out a commercial property owned by his wife Nirmla on Montrose Avenue, was surprised to get a water bill over $500 two weeks ago. His building, currently rented to an antique furniture seller, has two toilets and three sinks, and water usage for the property has seldom exceeded $20 per month. When he called the city, they told him his next water bill was already over $5,000.

He hired a contractor as soon as he could to replace the leaking water pipe, which cost close to $3,000.

The city has a program to forgive large water bills for one-time leaks, and Sharma said they’ve told him his bill will likely be adjusted.

The high bill was doubly surprising for him, because he thought his Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) water meter, which checks water usage every hour, would’ve caught the major leak before so much water was wasted.

“How come nobody even bothered to call, when I’m losing so much water?” Sharma said.

Abbotsford’s smart water meters were introduced in 2010, with the goal of reducing water usage through early leak detection and real-time monitoring. They use a radio frequency transmitter at each meter, from a company called Itron, which regularly sends information about each customer’s water usage to the city’s utility department.

In a press release sent to water-industry news sources in 2011, then-mayor George W. Peary wrote, “With this new technology, leaks will be detected almost as soon as they start residents will be notified almost right away which will save not only the costs associated with leaks, but assist with conserving the city’s water supply.”

According to Paul Doucet, the Canadian account executive for Itron, their transmitters sent information directly from customers to a city’s utility department. On a central computer, software analyzes this information to figure out if there are any leaks.

City spokesperson Katherine Treloar said Abbotsford’s software shows a leak alert for residential customers if they have no periods of zero water usage over three days. For commercial customers, the system is more complicated many businesses use water continuously and staff compare recent and past usage to see if leaks are present.

Leak alerts are then used by the city to send leak notifications to customers. Some cities have online systems or automated postcards; Abbotsford uses letters.

But Sharma is unhappy with how long it took for him to know about the leak because of how much water was wasted.

“I don’t want to lose any water, because we’re short water already,” Sharma said. If nobody [can] check the meter, what’s the benefit of the smart meter, then?”


Just Posted

UPDATE: One woman taken away on stretcher after three-vehicle collision at Maclure and Clearbrook Road intersection

Abbotsford emergency crews are on scene but traffic is slow eastbound on Maclure

Mennonite Central Committee hosts 50th annual Festival for World Relief

All the funds raised are going towards helping vulnerable people across the world

Zumiez coming to Abbotsford’s Sevenoaks Shopping Centre

Action sports retailer opening soon in Abbotsford mall

Missing man last seen in Chilliwack Sept. 7

Friends concerned for well-being of 44-year-old Jean Pierre Baril

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Pedestrian struck and killed by vehicle in Surrey

Investigators were asking anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

Vancouver’s Tristan Connelly shocks the UFC world

Late replacement upsets big favourite Pereira, main event sees Gaethje stop Cerrone in round one

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Most Read