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Published: Sunday, 3/18/2012


Ripple effect

A proposal by Toledo's Department of Public Utilities to install new water meters in homes it services in the city and across Lucas County created hardly a ripple among area residents, even at a potential cost of $30 million.

The idea is worth examining, even though details so far are murky. Water customers should learn more later this month, when a panel issues recommendations on proposals from three companies that would like to do the work.

Automatic water meters would make customers' bills more accurate. More important, the meters would help the utilities department quickly pinpoint leaks in the city's infrastructure, portions of which are nearly 150 years old.

Currently, Toledo can't account for nearly a quarter of the water that passes through its system, an appalling 24 percent loss that costs the city millions of dollars a year. It's unrealistic to expect a leak-proof system, but officials want to reduce water loss to be between 10 percent and 15 percent. New meters could go a long way toward achieving that goal.

But the ripples from modernization don't stop at billing accuracy and loss prevention.

The mission of the Great Lakes compact is to defend the Great Lakes from outsiders interested in trading water rights like Wall Street commodities. A strong legal defense of the compact begins with optimal management of the water by its member states, including Ohio.

The meters also appear likely to pay for themselves in cost savings. And while the start-up estimate is high, proper vetting of firms and financial packages to pay for the work could reduce the $30 million price tag.

City Council is not expected to vote on the proposal until next year, so council members have plenty of time to do their homework. Let's hope they seize the opportunity, and do it right.

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