Behind the Tap Spotlight: Meet Meter Services Technician Rachel Schuler. As a Meter Services Tech, Rachel reads meters, investigates stopped meters and high usage, and provides customer service out in the field. Water meters are read electronically. Meter Services trucks, like Rachel’s ‘Snowflake’, are equipped to pick up signals from each meter as techs drive their designated routes. The laptop shows green at each meter location as the software connects and reads the meter. If the computer cannot read the meter, it shows as red. When meters read as too high or too low (based on typical usage for that account), it indicates there is a possible problem, so techs like Rachel go back and investigate.
High usage can mean a leak, so she goes back out to the location to investigate. She verifies all the meter information to ensure there are no errors and checks with the customer to see if they can identify a problem. “Most of the time it is a toilet running! If the leak is catastrophic and the customer cannot be reached, I turn off the water as a cautionary step. We have seen upstairs bathroom leaks in the winter leave frozen waterfalls on the exterior of houses.”
When she has to return to a location, she often has to explain what is going on to our customer, advise them to look around for potential water loss issues, and give them a heads up if there is something visible outside or if we suspect a toilet (telltale sign it could be a toilet is the meter dial will spin at different speeds or spin and stop at random).
Rachel says meters that read too low can be stopped meters. These are usually vacant properties that are turned off, but once in a while it is actually a meter that is no longer working. If the water is not off, she tests the meter to see if it just doesn’t get use (usually irrigation meters) or if the meter needs to be replaced. If it necessary, she replaces the register (responsible for picking up and transmitting water usage info) or the actual meter (responsible for measuring the water flow into a home or property). “Unfortunately, sometimes we have to deal with tampering, and turn off and/or lock a meter down,” she adds.
Rachel likes the customer service side of her job the most. “When I talk to customers, 99% of the time they realize I am there to help. They are super thankful that I took the time to try to troubleshoot with them. I may only be able to point out possible line breaks and running toilets, but they still appreciate it, A LOT,” she adds.
Rachel says the pandemic really hasn’t impacted them very much in Meter Services.
“Our schedules were altered to limit exposure to each other, but we work solo out in the field, and we just mask up when we need to speak to a customer. The country-wide shortage of chips affected us for a little while.”
The biggest challenge she says was ‘getting new field computers, new software, AND new meter components all at once, in the middle of the pandemic. It was craaaaazy!’ #waterprofessional