Monday, December 12, 2016

Bruce Inman's Last Agenda Report Has A Strong Whiff Of Big Brother To It

The following agenda item is on the docket for tomorrow evening's City Council meeting. It is a bit of a wild one and I owe a big debt of gratitude to the resident that brought the troubling information included below to my attention. You can link to the staff report covering this invasive $75,000 boondoggle by clicking here.


Mod: What follows is the email I received from our reader pointing out some of the potential problems with this so-called "WaterSMART" program.

I think this item is worth reporting. On Tuesday, the council will decide whether or not to participate in a matching funds program to install an AMI water infrastructure system. The city must submit an application for the grant program. If it is accepted, Sierra Madre must pay $75,000 to be matched for the system. According to the staff report, SGVMWD cannot afford it, so the cities must pay themselves.


I read an article about AMI systems. They are invasive of everyone's privacy. Instead of being able to transmit information one way, AMI meters transfer information two ways. I will send you the article. If someone complains that their bill is too high, the city can respond, "Your bill is correct. I see you take your shower at 5 am."

There is no mention of this lack of privacy in the staff report. Why should tax money be used to invade our privacy? Why should the General Fund loan money to the Water Department for this? How much do these people really need to know about how we live our lives? Besides, if the city is in debt, why aren't those debts being paid off first?

I am suspicious of this because it is being brought before the council at the last meeting before Christmas. This is the time of year when residents are too busy with shopping, etc. to pay much attention. The staff report claims that news of this project came at the last minute. I wonder if that is really true.  The deadline to participate in the grant is December 13. That means the City Council and the public only have one night to discuss this.

Mod: Below is a portion of the revealing article mentioned in that email. It is pretty much an exercise in bureaucratese, but some troubling information can be found as well. Oddly, none of this information is shared in the staff report. Link here.

INFRASTRUCTURE: DRIVERS AND BENEFITS IN THE WATER INDUSTRY
By Angela Godwin 
Chief Editor, Domestic Water Group

Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI, has become somewhat of a buzz word in the water industry over the last few years and it’s being adopted more and more by water utilities under pressure to increase efficiency. With recent advancements in AMI technology, it’s not hard to see the attraction.

Before embarking on a discussion of AMI technology, it’s important to understand the difference between AMR and AMI, as the terms are often confused. AMR, or Automatic Meter Reading, is essentially a step up from a human being walking over to a water meter, reading the numbers, and writing them down. 

Rather, a device automatically pings the meter to get a current reading, which is used to generate a bill. AMR systems can be walk-by, drive-by, or fixed network, but regardless of how the meter is read, the communication is one-way. The meter talks to the meter-reading device, but the device cannot send a command back to the meter.

Conversely, AMI enables two-way communication over a fixed network between the utility system and the metering endpoints. It’s a much more powerful and robust system that’s proving its value in some challenging environments, from the rural plains to bustling urban centers.

Historically, AMR systems have been about reading meters quickly and accurately. These systems are certainly useful and continue to be deployed today, but many water utilities are finding that they have challenges beyond simply speed-reading a meter. Utilities are struggling with myriad operational issues that in many cases can be solved by AMI.

With an AMI system, the whole distribution network can be continuously monitored by hourly interval reads. Recent advancements in meter data management have transformed the vast spreadsheets and tedious data-mining activities of just a few years ago into push-button reports...

Mod: Here is the really strange part.

Customer Service
For a municipal water system where customers are also constituents, customer service is critical. With the detailed usage data available in an AMI system, customer service representatives have immediate access to consumers’ consumption information. When a customer calls with a high water bill complaint, the CS representative can give him a complete picture of how and when he’s using water.

“I’m telling you, it’s a pretty powerful thing when somebody calls and says there’s no way the meter is right,” said Sweeney, “and I say, ‘You are an early riser. I see you take a shower at 5 AM.’” The ability to communicate this level of information to the customer not only adds validity to the accuracy of the meter, it makes for superior customer relationships when you can quickly resolve their questions.

The customer isn’t the only one feeling satisfied. “As a customer service representative, you’re trying to help someone with a problem,” said Schlenger. “Nine times out of ten, you’re reacting to unpleasantness.” This takes a tremendous toll on customer service reps. But being able to investigate, diagnose and solve a customer’s problem, changes the CS rep’s perspective.

“When you really feel you can help customers and be proactive, then your whole feeling about your job changes,” said Schlenger. “It becomes more enjoyable and you have more time as an organization to start being analytical.”

The thought of some lost soul at City Hall being able to count the times you flushed your toilet last week, and then "proactively" throwing that information back in your face should they feel the need to do so, is kind of discomfiting. Exactly how much does a city's water department need to know about your very personal affairs?

Properly framed, this should make for an interesting conversation tomorrow night.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

39 comments:

  1. Just when you thought you'd seen enough.

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    Replies
    1. Has the General Plan called for such a system?
      I believe we are to improve infrastructure i.e. Pumps,wells, and pipes. Not add spy equipment.

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  2. Anyone else seen a huge increase in their water bill?
    We have conserved, and given up the yard, but our bills doubled.

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    Replies
    1. Yes. Are private water companies really more expensive than the Sierra Madre water department?

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    2. 7:06, rates increase every July so whatever you save is lost with yearly July cost increase. Also our meter cost is outrageous. After years of paying usage fees, a person never owns the meter. Is it necessary for the fee to be so costly? I wonder what adjacent city residents pay for their meters?

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  3. The article partially quoted is written from the point of view of a provider of customer service,not a consumer,as that is what WaterWorld does. To fixate on the image of someone taking a shower in the early morning is unfortunate. What is important is that we will have a better understanding of how we use water in our homes and can conserve and better use our limited resources.If it's affordable we need to update our water system.
    Don't be scared the water cannot spy on you.

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    Replies
    1. It is the invasion of privacy that is unfortunate. Oh, and your inability to see why that might be a problem for the residents who would be forced to pay for it.

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    2. You do realize SCE has done this for years ann one gets a sizeable discount by using less electricity at peak times. It's not an invasion,but an opportunity to save.I'd say something nasty about your character and inability to think rationally but I've a bit more character than you

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    3. Somebody is upset about this. So let me ask you, Cranky. Can SCE tell when you're using the blender to make those morning margaritas you so obviously enjoy?

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    4. The best way to save on electricity is dump Edison and go solar.

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    5. No more than a water distribution company can tell what you're doing with that 5 am blast of water. It' not a Margarita btw it's a nutritionally sound organic smoothy. The water cannot see you anymore than the electricity please feel safe. You may want to tape the camera on your monitors and unplug you TV's though.
      I'm sorry you're so upset if The Only Place is not serving yet I'm sure the Buk is

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    6. I'm sorry, but I don't think the taxpayers should have to pay $75,000 so the water department can spy on them. That is not what the UUT increase was for. And as far as the Only Place? I've stopped going there.

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    7. What is REALLY unfortunate is that Sierra Madre City Management (INMAN !) are dishonest (rusty pipes) ,incompetent and untrustworthy. Most of that water Bond money was squandered. The Water Dept has zero credibility.And we still leak 30% of all the water through decrepit mains

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    8. It's the resident's fault. Better spy on them

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    9. The internet went down at 915 am yesterday.

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  4. This is real time water consumption statistics nothing new. The question s/b do we need it?

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    Replies
    1. The ability to track the personal water use of residents, and down to when they shower no less, is very new.

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    2. When in doubt, blame the residents.

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  5. I spy, for the water guy.

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  6. is the power out on south baldwin?

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  7. They want a state-of-the-art system so they can more efficiently put the customer in his place. The part that bothers me - and this includes the city's massively flawed conservation appeal procedure - the emphasis is always on finding better ways to tell the water customers they are wrong. What about fixing actual errors and improving accuracy? A surge of water usage at 5am on one property could be a long shower. It could also be an archaic system in that cluster of parcels accidentally measuring a neighbor's shower. Or an erroneous measurement of a continuous leak. I think this city would save a lot more water if the focus of the works dept. was on fixing issues on their end instead of finding ways to win arguments with the residents.

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  8. Hope those Tesla solar shingles will continue me to market

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  9. My world already runs on sunshine.

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  10. I agree with 9:37am. The poster 7:26am sounds an Counsel person, not looking out for the citizens of town, but only for their own self aggrandize plans.
    Its a done deal, the Counsel never listens to anyone but themselves.
    When the drought ends in the next year or two, the town will still have a hugh bond debth and leaking pipes.
    My water is still brown. The flood gates were never repaired. Half the town is on smart meters that are now outdated. The water wasters have never paid a fine for over usage.
    Now the "City" wants to sit back and watch.
    It's a mess and the residents are charged over and over again, no improvement in sight. Dont say this will be a beginning. Beginning to an end of the town, more like it.

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    Replies
    1. when the drought ends....? what are you smoking?

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    2. I prefer to smoke California friendly drought tolerant landscaping.

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  11. Only 13 years ago torrential water. Due for the 100 year floods. Now is the 10 year drought.
    Guess your not from California?

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    Replies
    1. Doesn't matter where you are from bonehead. Very old trees are all dying in the Sierras, and if you think a good rainy season will put an end to all that, well, you might as well smoke yourself into oblivion. Politics and feelings aside, this path does not bode well for our children's children.

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    2. Damn. You sure ain't friendly. Where is the love, turtle dove?

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    3. I lost my sycamore tree this year. Loved that thing. Probably older than the house

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  12. Everyone enjoying their Spectrum internet service today?

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    Replies
    1. Got my cable and internet back sometime late last night after being out since approximately 9:30 am. Spectrum stinks! I've had many mini outages since the changeover from Time Warner Cable.

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  13. Very old trees, as in hundreds of years surviving without "mans'" pollution. Still had droughts though. Trees still there.
    So the City wants to know your toileting habits? Should we drop off low flushers in front of City Hall?

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    Replies
    1. I say City Hall builds a big septic tank with an outhouse at City Hall and all the residents can drop by there for their toileting needs.

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  14. Re count. Nothing gained. Green Party spent thousands of dollars.

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  15. So in 2020, California regulations will make it impossible to afford electricity. Also the zero emission will kick in.
    California is going backwards.

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    Replies
    1. Getting to zero emissions would be going forward

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    2. So reducing our emissions to 1990 level will make it impossible to afford electricity? Zero emissions in 2020 is sipply a lie on your part.Do you think we had zero emissions in 1990.........

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  16. Anyone read the L.A. Times story I think it was today, on future outlook of energy? and density of housing required by the State? and trying to get cars off the roads. ETC.

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