Opt-Out Policy

In order to modernize billing and services available to customers, MWU is installing smart meter technology using radio frequency (RF) transmitters. This device, a small flat box called an Electronic Read Transmitter (ERT), is connected to the water meter by a wire and transmits meter readings wirelessly to MWU.

Despite the many advantages of the system, MWU recognizes that some customers may want to opt-out of having the standard smart meter technology installed inside their homes. MWU offers two options for the customer wishing to opt-out of the smart meter technology:

Option 1: Electronic Read Transmitter (ERT) installed on the outside of building

($50.69 one-time charge)

The standard location for the ERT is on a basement ceiling joist directly above the water meter. A one-time, non-standard meter installation charge of $50.69 will be billed to customers who choose to have the ERT installed at a location on the outside of their residence/building. This charge reflects the additional average cost for customer-requested placement of ERTs on the outside of the building.

Following the completion of the installation phase of ProjectH20 and the demobilization of the installation subcontractor, MWU will charge actual costs for time and materials to perform an outside mount.

Option 2: No Electronic Read Transmitter (ERT) on property

($7.78 monthly charge)

Customers will have a quarterly manual meter reading. The monthly bill will include a charge of $7.78 to pay for the increased costs for utility personnel to perform the manual meter read and to enter information into the billing system each month. The monthly charge will be evaluated by the Public Service Commission with each rate increase application and could increase or decrease in the future based on actual costs. MWU standard practice will be to bill on a monthly basis, so all meters will receive a monthly bill.

Following the completion of the installation phase of Project H20 and the demobilization of the installation subcontractor, MWU will charge actual costs for time and materials to remove an ERT.

Please Note: Even if you select Option 2, you will still need to schedule an appointment to convert your current meter to read gallons instead of cubic feet (ccf).


A completed and signed Opt-Out Program Form must be submitted to MWU for both Option 1 and Option 2. The form can be faxed to MWU at (608) 266-4426 or mailed to the following address:


Madison Water Utility
ATTN: Project H2O
119 East Olin Avenue
Madison, WI 53713

Outside mount installations for customers who choose Option 1 will be by appointment. Please refer to the installation schedule map to see when installations will begin in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions

I don't want a monthly bill. Can I opt-out of that and keep my 6-month bill?

All customers will be transitioned to monthly billing. To make monthly billing more convenient, customers can pay ahead, sign up for ACH and have payments automatically deducted from their bank accounts, or sign up for e-billing on MyWater.

How did MWU calculate the monthly manual meter reading charge for Option 2? Can I see a cost breakdown?

Project H2O automates meter reading by wirelessly delivering information to the Madison Water Utility's billing system. When customers opt out of having an ERT installed, MWU incurs additional labor and vehicle costs to process their bills. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has ruled that customers who opt-out of a standard meter installation must be charged for this additional cost.

The PSC authorizes utilities to issue estimated bills when reliable reading information is not available. However, no more than two consecutive bills can be estimated, so every third bill must be based on an actual meter reading. The proposed charge is based on cost estimates for manually estimating monthly bills and obtaining a manual meter reading on a quarterly basis.

The annual estimated cost for billing “Option 2” customers is $93.36 ($15.42 x 4 for quarterly manual meter reading plus $3.96 x 8 for manually estimating bills on the months the meter is not read). When this annual cost is divided by 12, the result is a monthly charge of $7.78. Please see the table below for a breakdown of the cost estimate for manual meter reading.

Actual costs for manual meter reading will be tracked, and the monthly charge will be evaluated as part of every rate increase application. The charge could increase or decrease in the future based on actual costs.

ProcedureAverage timeCostCost + Burden *
Meter Reading Appointment2 minutes$1.27$1.58
Reading the Meter5 minutes$3.50$4.38
Manual Entry into Billing System **5 minutes$3.17$3.96
Vehicle Charge10 miles$5.50$5.50
Total Monthly Fee $13.44$15.42

* Labor burden is the cost to carry a labor force aside from salary actually paid (benefits, insurance, taxes).

** This cost would also apply on months the meter is not read and an estimated usage is manually entered into the billing system.

If I choose an outside mount (Option 1), will MWU still need to get into my property/the basement for any reason?

We will need access to your water meter inside the property to do the installation. In addition, meters are routinely replaced as part of MWU's meter replacement schedule. In the future, MWU may need to schedule an appointment to gain access to your property in order to replace an old meter.

Under Option 1 it says "Following the completion of the installation phase of Project H20 and the demobilization of the installation subcontractor, MWU will charge actual costs for time and materials to perform an outside mount." What does that mean?

The $50.69 is based on Corix's cost to do an outside mount as part of a larger project. If you were to decide to do an outside mount at a later date when the project has already been completed, the cost to do an outside mount will be different because Corix will not be performing the work. It will still be a one-time charge, but it will be based on MWU's cost to send an employee to your property.

If I opt out entirely (option 2), can I "opt-in" a later date for either a standard or an outside mount installation and vice versa?

Yes. A customer can change his/her opt-out choice or "opt-in" in the future. Per the policy, there will be a charge for time and materials to remove an ERT if it has already been installed.

There is already a wire that runs from my meter to the old box on the outside of my house. For an outside mount, can the new ERT be connected to the old wire?

The existing wire cannot be used to connect the ERT to the water meter because it is a two-strand wire, and a three-strand wire is required for the installation.

How was the opt-out policy developed?

A public hearing was held September 24, 2012 before Water Utility staff on a draft opt-out policy. The draft policy was then reviewed and revised by the Water Utility Board at a special meeting Thursday, September 27 and by the Common Council on October 2, 2012. It was then submitted to the Public Service Commission (PSC) on October 8, 2012 for consideration and approval. The ERF docket it was filed under is 05-WI-101.

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