Water Meters

What Is AMR?

AMR stands for Automated Meter Readers. It’s a method of using communication technology to read meters without having to access the meter, which is located in a meter box in the ground.

How does it work?

There are several ways to read a water meter remotely. We’ve chosen a system that uses a small radio transmitter powered by a battery that is connected to the water meter by a cable. The radio device collects a reading from the meter and transmits the reading to a collection/receiver device located in a vehicle that’s being driven through your neighborhood.

Why are we undertaking this effort?

Automated meter systems are quickly becoming the standard for utilities around the country. We’ve used this technology since 2007 for meters that serve apartments, duplexes and commercial properties. The efficiency gained in those areas will now be shared across the entire County. These new devices allow for more accurate and faster collection of water usage readings than the current manual method and improve safety conditions for County staff. Currently, the meter readers must open every meter box to obtain a reading. Introducing automatic meter reading as the standard for Arlington is one of the ways we can better serve our customers and will enable us to upgrade to more advanced meter reading methods in the future.

How many meters will be changed?

The current residential AMR program will replace the existing 30,000 residential meters that have not previously been installed with AMR-type meters. We began installing this generation of AMR meters in 2007, replacing a previous generation of AMR units installed in the early 1990s on commercial accounts and expanding coverage to include all large apartments and condominium accounts (medium- and high-density residential). As part of a pilot program in 2009, 2,200 residents have already had AMR technology installed.

Automated Meter Reader (AMR) technology.

AMR Technology

Will the electronic device on the meter interfere with other electronic equipment?

No. The radio transmission operates in compliance with Federal Communications Commission regulations to avoid interference with other electronic devices.

Is this part of a fixed (closed) network?

No. The current automatic meter technology still requires the readings to be collected by driving or walking by the meter. A fixed network collects readings at fixed data collection points and transmits them electronically for billing purposes without staff needing to go to the location of the meters. Fixed networks can allow a utility company to provide customers with Internet access to their reading information on a more frequent basis than their bill. The AMR devices being installed in Arlington provide the foundation required to upgrade to a fixed network should the County decide to do so in the future.

Has this new AMR equipment been tested for accuracy and reliability?

Yes, meters come pretested along with results directly from the manufacturer. The radio device will be tested for accuracy during the meter collection process regularly.

How will I know that you have my reading and not someone else’s?

Each radio frequency device has a unique identification number, which is transmitted along with the meter reading. The unique number is compared to your account record to ensure a match.

Does this mean no more meter readers?

No, you will still see meter readers in your neighborhoods. There are times that the radio signal transmission is weak and meter readers may have to walk up to the meter before acquiring a read. Most reads will be acquired by simply driving by. We’ll continue to visit your property for routine service, maintenance or repair, and respond to water emergencies.


Do I have to be home for the meter replacement work?

No. Since the water meters are located outside of the home in the County right of way, you will not need to be home for the replacement work. If you have special concerns about any fixtures installed that may be affected by temporary water service interruption, call 703-228-5000 to report this and a supervisor will contact you.

What happens if I have a problem after installation?

If you have a leak, low pressure or some other problem after installation, or at any other time, call 703-228-5000 during business hours or 703-228-6555 after hours to report the problem. Because your water will be turned off temporarily during the meter change process, you may experience a brief period of air or discolored water. In most cases, briefly running your cold water will clear this situation.

Why is the water meter being replaced?

All meters will be replaced to upgrade the meter to one capable of communicating with the AMR equipment, and as an extension of an existing program to replace aging meters after they have reached the end of their life cycle. With the introduction of newer technology, the existing meters are not able to communicate using AMR technology.

Can I cover up the meter after the installation?

No. Access needs to be available at all times. There will still be occurrences when meter technicians will visit the meter on-site to perform routine maintenance or verify high readings. Obstructions to the meter box are subject to removal by County personnel.

What if there’s something in front of or blocking the meter?

Keep access to the water meter available at all times to ensure it’s accessible for any potential emergency that would require the meter to be turned off. Be careful during the leaf season to not cover your water meter with leaf piles.

My Bill

How does AMR benefit customers?

  • Improved customer service by increasing accuracy of meter readings.
  • Minimized need to access meters at the property.
  • Reduction in estimated bills.

Will my water bill go up?

Possibly. Older meters tend to lose accuracy as they age and therefore don’t measure all the water going through them. The new water meter will accurately measure the water you use. All new meters are tested prior to delivery by the manufacturer to ensure that they register properly. If you see a higher bill immediately upon the new meter installation, it’s likely the old meter was running slow.

Can I access daily readings from the meter online?

At this time, only billed consumption is available for review. You can register your account online.

Can I read the meter?

No. Only County staff is authorized to open the meter lid. Plumbers are not authorized to open meter lids. Call 703-228-5000 during business hours or 703-228-6555 after hours if access to the meter is needed.