CONCERNING THE USE OF METERS.
Not more than twenty-five years ago the water meter was considered an innovation in waterworks practice, and its use was looked upon in a skeptical way by those in charge of plants. Although metering water was not entirely new at that time, the adoption of the system in this country found slow favor, principally owing to the conditions that prevailed here. The sources of water supply in Europe were not so prolific as those that were supposed to exist on this continent; consequently, the furnishing of water, especially in England, without measurement, did not seem consistent there, when the expense of obtaining it was taken into account. The great lakes, rivers, surface and well sources of supplies, even the snow on the lofty hills of Colorado that fills the reservoirs along its mountain sides in the United States were looked upon as inexhaustible and easy of access. It was, therefore, considered by some that there were always at hand ample sources for supplying water for domestic and fire protection use, and that the placing of a meter to check waste or measure the quantity of water consumed was unnecessary, on the principle that water was as free as air. Gradually, however, meterage pushed itself into favor as being the most equitable means of furnishing water, and the public is now willing to pay for the quantity consumed at a cost that, in most cases, is lower than what is charged under the flat rate system. It is true, the more rapid introduction of the meter has been retarded owing to unprincipled politicians endeavoring to foist unreliable machines upon the public. The most noticeable of these cases were in Boston and New York, where, in the former, after being paid for by the city, quantities of poor meters were consigned to the scrap heap. Even worse conditions prevailed in New York, by reason of a political clique trying to force a particular brand of meter upon the public, with only one qualification to commend it— that of unreliability. It is thirty years ago since it was announced that 1,200 meters had been sold, and it will be only a short time from this date when the issue will reach that figure one thousandfold. Surely this is a very convincing argument of the ascendency of the meter. It goes to prove that, with time and education, both those managing waterworks plants and the water consumers have learned that the most judicious method of furnishing good potable water is by measurement. The older cities in this country which had to rely on pumping direct or to standpipes were the first to realise that relief from waste should come from meters. The city of Providence, R. I., made a bold start by adopting a universal system, all services being metered there. Other cities soon fell into line, and now all the principal places throughout the country look upon meterage as the most economical, equitable, and necessary method of selling water to large and small consumers alike. In all places where meters have been generally adopted the system seems to have given satisfaction. The serious and expensive question of increased pumpage facilities has been met with the installation of meters and consequent decrease of waste. By this it is not to be Understood that the house consumption has been decreased below what may be considered a necessary per capita supply. The result of the use of meters proves that the supply is ample for all purposes; but the time for letting faucets run at all hours, in winter and summer, has passed, and the consumer is now asked to pay for the water actually used, with a result more satisfactory, as to cost, than that obtained under the flat rate system. In Fall River, Mass., the lowest actual domestic consumption per capita per day measured through meters is only a little over twelve gallons, and it is said this amount proves quite sufficient. While this might be the case in the New England city, it would not apply in larger places where more luxurious surroundings abound. For instance, after gauging the supply of certain sections of Manhattan borough, Chief Engineer Nicholas S. Hill found that the consumption in parts of the city where wealthy people reside was nearly four times as great as that used in the poorer tenement districts. Therefore, taking as an average consumption 150 gallons per capita, per day in the city of New York, the wealthier people probably use fourfifths of that amount, while the occupier of the poor tenement is satisfied with his one-fifth. This example shows the equitableness of metering such supplies and regulating the charges in accordance with the conditions then existing. In 1873 a Navarro oneinch meter was installed at Bay City, Mich. This brand of meter was in vogue during the Tweed regime in New York, and was the meter used by the Boss in his famous meter contract which was canceled after his deposition, and the transaction ruined the inventor, Jose F. Navarro. Bay City used the meter a few months, when it was discarded as being too light for the pressure it had to sustain. That meter is still preserved in the Michigan city. The constant cost of extension of the Bay City plant became so large that the water board was requested to install meters to stop the waste. It refused to adopt this course, and, instead, appointed an inspector to look after the matter, but with such unsatisfactory results that large meters were ordered set to discover where the waste existed. The first four-inch meter indicated water passing through it at the rate of 500,000 gallons per day without any water being received on the premises metered. Upon investigation it was found that three sections of the four-inch pipe had burst, and the water was running to waste among the sawdust and other porous filling round it. Superintendent Dunbar, of Bay City, says that the success which attended the introduction of the first few meters resulted in the system being extended to include smaller services, until, at the present time, with two and one-half more services in use than in 1882 and nearly 1,000 meters set, the quantity of water pumped is only about one-third more than in that year, and only thirteen per cent, more than in 1881. W. W. Brigden, engineer, of Battle Creek, Mich., reports that in 1892 an ordinance was passed requiring all new services to be metered, and the rule has worked well; the consumption is more evenly distributed over the days of warm and dry weather, and the demands for short periods arc no greater than they were in 1894, although the aggregate uses are greatly increased since that time. “We are satisfied (says Mr. Brigden) that meters are as much a necessity in the proper administration of the water department as weights and measures are in the sale of merchandise. They are expensive; but the expense must be met, or the additional pumping machinery and increase of mains to carry, the enormously increased amount of water consumed will far exceed the cost of meters.” The meter rates in Battle Creek are only from seven to thirteen cents per 1,000 gallons, and great success has attended the plan of either renting or selling meters, at cost, to the consumer. It is well known to waterworks superintendents what good results have been obtained at Madison, Wis., where the city furnishes meters and meter boxes free, at an average cost to the city of $16.15 for each meter set. The system in that city is signally successful, and it is expected that all services there will be metered, as soon as the finances will warrant such action. Through meterage the per capita consumption of Madison has been reduced to twenty-one gallons per day. In places where some large services only are metered, or in those where meterage is limited to certain public and manufacturing institutions, definite results do not become so apparent. Such cities, for instance, as Buffalo, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, show the largest per capita consumption, varying from 150 to 250 gallons per capita per day. The cost of pumpage in Chicago and Buffalo is enormous, and it is constantly increasing with the daily increase in consumption. Such conditions are allowed to exist principally from political reasons. The borough of Brooklyn has for a long time suffered from shortage of water and threatened famine in dry seasons. But for the voice of the political vampire this condition might have been remedied by adopting a more general system of meterage, instead of trying to obtain a paltry amount of water from such a veritable cesspool as Springfield. As showing the necessity of curtailing the expense of constant extension of existing plants, the cities of Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, have been compelled to adopt general meterage plans, and these cities are now metering all services. Hundreds of similar cases might also be cited; but it is only necessary to mention those above as showing the tendency of waterworks engineers and superintendents to adopt the most equitable and economical method known to save waste of water and expense to the municipalities they represent. The following list of places in Michigan furnishes a good illustration in showing the results of judicious meterage and those where only a few meters or none are used:
Kalamazoo, with nearly two-thirds of its services metered, shows the lowest consumption of forty-three gallons, while Battle Creek, with nearly seven-eighths metered, uses forty-eight gallons, and Holland, with about the same proportion, has a consumption of fifty gallons. . Detroit has 5,738 meters, about onetenth part of the taps, and shows a consumption of 234 gallons per capita. On the other hand, Hancock has no meters, but has a consumption of 200 gallons per capita. Port Huron has the highest consumption of 234 gallons, with only one-eighteenth of its services metered. The accompanying table shows that three-fourths of the places in the State of Michigan have to pump their supplies; hence, it would seem that meterage should form a more important part of their waterworks administration. In fact, the question of metering supplies should be more generallyadopted in all places where the expense of pumpage has to be borne, or where the source is at all limited. A judicious system of meterage ought to be installed to prevent waste; otherwise, the task becomes more difficult, the longer the consumer is allowed to pay a flat rate.