City of Merced to install water meters in June

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thousands of Merced residents will soon have water meters for the first time. The city council recently passed an emergency resolution to add them to all homes that don't have them already. Most homes built after 1992 already have meters. But now crews are going around and doing the prep work to add meters for nearly 11,000 more customers.

The city of Merced pumps about 24 million gallons of water a day from its 23 wells. Officials say that's far too much, especially during this historic drought.

Leah Brown is the city's water conservation specialist. She said, "We have a high per capita water use, and it's because of our use in the summertime so we simply have to cut back."

Brown has been visiting schools and doing other public outreach, but says the next step is to add water meters to the remaining 10,800 homes that don't have them already. The city has found the average residential customer with a meter uses about half as much water as someone who pays a flat rate.

Merced resident, Peggy Connell, said, "I think it's time, and I think it's justified that everyone find out how much water they are using so they can cut back if they are over the limit."

Each household is allowed 30 units or about 22,000 gallons of water per month before they'll start seeing an increase in their bill. Brown says in many cases, meters can save people money because they're only paying for what they use instead of how much land they have. But she knows some are still skeptical.

Brown explained, "Public perception is huge, and we want people not to fear the change, that it will be okay, we all have to conserve anyway."

The city will spend more than $3.5 million to purchase and install the meters. That money is coming from a special restricted water well fund, not the general fund.

Installation of new water meters will begin in June, and will continue over the next year. All commercial water users in the city already have meters.

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