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Your Panama City Beach water bill just went up? You might have gotten a new digital meter

  • 10 March 2022
  • ckearns

Nathan Cobb, The News Herald
February 25, 2022 · 2 min read

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Some residents could experience a slight increase to their water bill after their outdated water meter is replaced with a new one that uses smart technology.

However, Mark Shaeffer, utilities director for Panama City Beach, says such a price hike is normal and not due to inflation, but because the new meters are much more accurate and effective.

"The old mechanical meters never over read, they just begin to wear and have more tolerance in them, so they don't register every drop that passes through them as well as they did when they were new," Shaeffer said.

According to a press release, the city has actively switched worn out meters with new ones "for years" through its "systemwide water meter changeout program."

It states the life of a meter is about 10 years. After that, they become less reliable and are unable to properly register water flow.

"The new meters are more sophisticated, smart meters with microchips to ensure accuracy," the press release from the city reads. "As these new meters are installed, it is not uncommon for a customer to see an increase in the water bill because it is not registering actual water use."

However, a post on Panama City Beach's Facebook page notes that even with these increases, the city still boasts the lowest water and sewer rates out of all the municipalities in Bay County.

Shaeffer said meters are replaced on both a rotation and their condition when crews go out to read them.

"If it's showing the same reading from the time before, we know that it's no longer registering, or it's expected that it's no longer registering flow," he said. "That tells us that it's time to change the meter out."

The press release also states there currently is a shortage of new meters, which Shaeffer said was sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To compensate, the city might be forced to use a piece of pipe — labeled with a city sticker for identification — instead of a water meter for new construction. Those properties will then receive a new meter when they become available.

In the meantime, they "will be charged the base minimum charge," the release reads.

"The new water meters have a digital display and a microchip inside them," Shaeffer said. "Like everything that has microchips these days, it's difficult to get them because of supplier chain issues."

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