EMERALD ISLE — Bogue Banks Water Corporation’s meter upgrades are nearly finished, and a new add-on device to help customers learn to conserve water proven popular.
The nonprofit company announced the new device, called a cellular endpoint, in September amid an increase in customer complaints about high water bills over the summer, coupled with in-house concerns about the availability of water.
The Eye on Water system enables customers to view and understand their water use on a website or through a cellphone app and also enables them to discover leaks more quickly.
The goal, according to Seola Hill, executive director of the utility, is to help customers slow what the company views as an alarming increase in water usage and depletion of and saltwater intrusion into the Castle Hayne aquifer, which supplies the water.
So far, Mr. Hill said Tuesday, the company has installed the devices on 156 meters. He said he doesn’t expect to see the devices result in much change in water usage until the summer season, when increased usage will again trigger higher bills and customers will want to cut back because of higher rates the company imposed last year.
In Emerald Isle, some customers this fall complained their bills had doubled or tripled. One who complained was Danny Shell, who lives on Windjammer East, off Coast Guard Road. He said his bill in August 2019 was $77, but in August 2020 it jumped to $252 and he used 3,000 more gallons than the previous year.
Mr. Hill said the new rate system is tiered, meaning instead of a flat fee, customers pay more as usage increases.
In addition, BBWC began billing irrigation water at an even higher rate, $10 per thousand gallons, because summertime demand had increased to almost 400% of the offseason demand.
He suggested property owners use shallow wells, low-flow irrigation heads, working rain sensors and irrigate no more than three days a week in an effort to use less water and decrease pressure on the groundwater aquifer.
In an email Tuesday, Mr. Shell said he had not yet signed up for the endpoint.
“I do need to get up with that, because I would like to use their new way of (monitoring) my water usage from my cell phone or a computer,” he said. “Hopefully, the new technology will help.”
But, he added, “I’m probably going to wind up having a well put in to solve my irrigation issues.”
In September, Mr. Hill said in a prepared statement, “We cannot continue to blindly abuse the (Castle Hayne) groundwater aquifer with such a high demand without consequences to future generations. (We’re) already starting to see those repercussions in the form of saltwater intrusion in the western end of the aquifer.”
Those who get the cellular endpoints can see daily meter readings and set up alerts to let them know when usage exceeds a set amount or where there is constant flow for more than a few hours, signaling a leak.
The alerts can also be sent to multiple contacts, such as a rental company’s maintenance service.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.