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FEMA awards $711M+ to PRASA to replace drinking water meters

The existing mechanical water meters will be replaced by ultrasonic meters with Advanced Metering Infrastructure.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded more than $711 million to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (PRASA) for the replacement of nearly 1.4 million water meters, the agency’s infrastructure for measuring drinking water consumption across the island.

Existing mechanical water meters will be replaced by ultrasonic meters with Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) to collect detailed information from the meters at all PRASA service areas.

“This allocation of funds is a wise investment. It not only protects PRASA’s assets and helps it modernize its infrastructure, but it also protects the federal investment, as mitigation works add resiliency against future events,” said José G. Baquero, the disaster recovery coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Puerto Rico.

After the devastating effects of Hurricane María in 2017 on PRASA’s water meter infrastructure, replacing and protecting the entire inventory was necessary to ensure its optimum functionality, operation and maintenance, as part of the potable water distribution system, a media release notes.

The meter replacement project includes nearly $580 million in hazard mitigation funding to replace all meters and avoid the risks associated with partial infrastructure repair, according to the utility. 

The project will help protect PRASA’s assets and the water distribution system’s maintenance, as well as the federal investment by adding resilience against future disasters. 

Doriel I. Pagán, PRASA’s executive president, described the transition to smart meters as “the most important and emblematic project for the Authority.” 

The project, he said, “represents a total investment of $790 million for PRASA, and we are currently in the first phase of the pilot project, which will determine the type of smart meters to be used. Once again, we are grateful for the support and willingness of all the FEMA, [Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3)] and PRASA teams that joined us in this process to achieve this historic project for Puerto Rico.”

Ultrasonic meters are advantageous for PRASA, the utility said, due to their filter-free operation, immunity to water quality and wear and tear, and consistent accuracy over the 20 years they are expected to last.

Pagán said that the project, approved and obligated, received more than $711 million, making it one of FEMA’s largest approvals for risk mitigation. “Of these funds, $578 million comes from FEMA’s 506 Mitigation program, and there is an additional contribution of $79 million from Community Development Block Grant funds.”

The AMI system offers remote reading capabilities and real-time water flow data, helping PRASA anticipate potential breakdowns and dispatch maintenance crews promptly.

The benefits for customers include more accurate readings, precise consumption data, minimized losses, and continuous monitoring for flow and pressure irregularities.

The pilot project’s initial phase impacted 3,000 metropolitan area customers, who were previously notified about the upgrades.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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