TAMWORTH Regional Council could be set to embark on a multi-million-dollar venture to better monitor city water use.
The council has called for tenders on an automated meter-reading system that could allow the council to keep an eye on water consumption in real time.
The council's water director Bruce Logan flagged the arrival of this scheme at a recent forum on water issues with local businesses.
Mr Logan said it would be a big decision for the council, which expected a price-tag in excess of "tens of million of dollars".
The mayor, Col Murray, said the roll-out of a totally automated system "would be inevitable".
But he said it wasn't a cheap option and it could be years before it was fully delivered.
Cr Murray said the move away from manually monitored meters would have benefits for householders and the council.
The council would be able to alert property owners more efficiently about potential leaks that could result in bigger water bills.
"It would be great for the council to get better data on what's being used and peak times," he said.
It could also help the council identify instances where water restrictions were being flouted.
The mayor said it would be unlikely to see the new meters delivered over "one budget year" and suggested it would be a staged roll-out.
The council also floated a new rebate for air conditioners as another potential measure, at its forum with concerned businesses.
Cr Murray said domestic water use rose by about 50 per cent on hot days so there "was a compelling argument" to do something about thirsty aircon units.
He stopped short of supporting a rebate for replacing evaporative units with split systems, but said it was "great discussion" to be had.
In April, the council approved a $52,000 spend on a trial automated monitoring program.
The city's daily water use (19.48 megalitres) remains above the council's level 5 restriction target (16.1 megalitres).