Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue Station 3 is a proposed location for a water smart meter antenna. (Gregory Hasman/Observer)

Rio Rancho residents will one day be able to access information about their water usage online at different times of the day. 

On Thursday evening, the Rio Rancho Governing Body OK’d the allocation of about $1.6 million to start replacing the city’s water advanced meter readings system (AMR) with an advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) one. 

Advanced meter infrastructure is an integrated system of smart meters, communications networks and data management systems that enables two-way communication between utilities and customers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  

An AMR meter only communicates from the customer to the utility. 

The smart meter will also track water usage through technology such as ultrasonic or electromagnetic readings that provide more accurate measurements.

The city’s AMRs are nearing the end of their 15-year life cycle and while they work fine, smart meters are more effective and efficient, City of Rio Rancho Utilities Director James Chiasson said during an April 19 governing body work session.  

For example, the city would be able to shut off water quickly if a customer is delinquent with their bill. It can also turn the water back on immediately once payment is made, he said.  

Smart meters will be equipped with software that will download the reading and automatically produce an invoice. They will also allow people to see how much water they are using at various times of day.  

With the approval, the city will begin the process of hooking up 3,700 smart meters in the Rivers Edge, Vista Hills and Western Hills areas. 

Three antennas will be installed as well to transmit the data back to the city. The antennas will be at Well No. 10a on Northern Boulevard; Well 6a, Tulip Road; and Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue Station 3 on Riverside Drive.  

Smart meters will provide huge cost savings in the long run, Mayor Gregg Hull said at Thursday’s governing body meeting.  

Councilor Jim Owen requested that after about nine months, the city staff gives the governing body an update on how the smart meters are working. 

The city plans to install the 37,000-plus meters in stages. The goal is to finish by July 2029.