FEMA awards over $711 million to Puerto Rico’s sewer authority for potable water meters

(UI) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded over $711 million to replace nearly 1.4 million water meters of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA), the agency’s infrastructure for measuring potable water consumption throughout the island.

The existing mechanical water meters will be replaced by ultrasonic meters with Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), a technology that collects detailed information from the meters for all PRASA’s 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 Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero.

After the devastating effects of Hurricane María 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. 

The meters system replacement project includes nearly $580 million in 406 hazard mitigation funding to replace all meters, to avoid the risks associated with partial infrastructure repair. All new meters will include the AMI infrastructure. The mitigation measure will help protect PRASA’s assets and the federal investment by adding resilience against future similar events. This mitigation funding is the highest to date obligated under Hurricane María.

PRASA’s Executive President Doriel I. Pagán Crespo said that “the change from mechanical meters to smart meters is currently the most important and emblematic project for the Authority. The project 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, COR3 and PRASA groups that joined us in this process to achieve this historic project for Puerto Rico.”

Replacing mechanical meters with ultrasonic technology provides multiple benefits for PRASA. Ultrasonic meters do not require a filter, are not affected by water quality or wear and tear over the years and provide accurate readings for the life of the equipment, which is estimated to be 20 years. 

The AMI advanced metering system complements the new meters by enabling remote reading capabilities and providing real-time water flow information, allowing PRASA to anticipate potential breakdowns and dispatch maintenance crews promptly.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), Manuel Laboy Rivera, said that “at COR3 we support the development of this permanent work that will benefit all PRASA subscribers. To begin this project, COR3 disbursed $74.3 million through the Working Capital Advance (WCA) pilot program. Now that FEMA’s funding allocation has increased, we are at the public corporation’s request to arrange a review and advance 25 percent of the total current funding obligation. I thank FEMA for providing the resources to continue transforming the Island’s critical infrastructure into a resilient one.”

To date, FEMA has allocated over $33 billion for nearly 11,000 projects to address Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane María. Of these, PRASA has over $3.6 billion through FEMA’s Accelerated Award Strategy (FAASt) to repair water distribution and treatment facilities across Puerto Rico. 

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