The city of Dickinson is considering a major water meter replacement program.

Utilities Manager Gregory Stack, in the annual water department report to city commissioners Tuesday, explained water meters are failing at a higher rate.

"We were doing about 100 to 200 meter replacements per year," Stack said. "Now we're up to about 250 this year."

The batteries in the electronic devices are dying, Stack told The Dickinson Press.

There are roughly 5,500 devices in the city that are 17 to 19 years old, with batteries that last that time period.

Each battery costs about $200 per device.

The city has about 9,000 water meters total.

Stack suggested to commissioners that the city may need to consider a complete water meter replacement effort as part of upcoming budget discussions.

The water department, a division of Dickinson Public Works, focuses on the city's water distribution system.

"We do not make our own water," Stack said. "We buy that from Southwest Water Authority."

When a water meter fails to read, service is not interrupted to the customer, meaning that the city is losing revenue.

This can go unnoticed for as much as one month.

"We would notice all the water meter readings that have a no-flow," Stack said. "We investigate that."

Mayor Scott Decker advocated expediting the effort.

"If we're paying for water that we're not charging somebody for, we need to make sure this is corrected," he said. "Southwest Water is not going to forgive us."

The city in 2018 purchased 913 million gallons of water from Southwest Water Authority.

Stack anticipated the city purchasing 900 million gallons of water from Southwest Water Authority in 2019.

With his report, Stack highlighted other water department achievements.

In 2018, the department installed 60 new water meters, a slight increase from 2017.

"We typically use the installation of water meters to go ahead and indicate how our growth is going in Dickinson, how many builders are building houses or properties that require water," he said.

The city boasts four elevated water towers, two ground-level water tanks, three pressure-demand booster stations, a 1 million-gallon underground storage reservoir, at 10th Avenue East, and a finished water pump station.

The water pump station directs the water to all of the tanks and towers from the water plant on Broadway Avenue.

The department repaired 31 water breaks in 2018, including city water service to curb stops that did not work.

Stack called it "quite an increase" from 2016 and 2017.

The department plans to use leak detection services to strategically repair water breaks through the summer.

"We don't like to do those during the winter time, but we just don't have any choice," Stack said. "It's much more difficult to do that."

The water department in 2018 also replaced five blocks of asbestos concrete water main along Southeast Eighth Street.