DISCUSSION BY CHAS. W. WINKLE
I take pleasure in submitting for your consideration a few thoughts regarding meter department operation, these thoughts being based on an experience of about twenty years in the meter department of the Indianapolis Water Company. Our company has at this time 6,000 meters, which recorded during the year 1919 a total consumption of 4,551,000,000 gallons, or approximately 45 per cent, of our entire pumpage. The revenue derived from this metered water was approximately $450,000, or in round numbers 45 per cent, of our revenue from the sale of water.
My first thought relates to the proper sizing of meters. By this I mean that the water works superintendent should familiarize himself with the actual needs and demands of the patron and install a meter sufficient in size to take care of this requirement, but not so large as to cause a loss to the water company on account of slippage, non-registration of small streams, etc. I feel that this is a matter of considerable importance to the water companies, and one which has not received its proper consideration.
My second thought is in regard to the necessity of the frequent overhauling and testing of the larger meters, especially those meters from 2-inch in size and upward. Our experience indicates that the larger meters should be tested once every year, and it is my firm conviction that the saving to the utility in the correction of slow meters, etc., will far offset the cost of the overhauling and testing. Our experience indicates that practically all large meters will run a little slow after having been in service more than a year. Most of these meters will run from 5 to 10 per cent, slow, while in a few cases you will find them running as high as 15 per cent. slow. The smaller meters, 5/8-inch and 3/4-inch, should be tested on an average of once in every seven years, the frequency, of course, depending upon the service furnished through the meter.
My third thought is that every water department having 500 meters or more should have a good meter testing outfit. We have a Mueller tester and find it very satisfactory.
My fourth thought is this: Our experience has indicated that the monthly reading of meters is advisable even though the bill is rendered bi-monthly or quarterly. Practically all complaints in the meter department are due to excess consumption from leaky fixtures such as toilets, etc., and if the meters are read quarterly or semiannually the wastage through these leaky fixtures will be very large, and you will be face to face with a disgruntled and dissatisfied customer. I realize that monthly reading entails a rather high meter department operating expense, but I firmly believe that the satisfaction which can be guaranteed to the consumer by the monthly reading more than offsets the increased cost.
My fifth thought, or suggestion, is that it is advisable to request all of the large consumers of water to read their meters on the water company’s regular meter reading date. We have found that where the consumer takes regular meter readings, complaints are eliminated. A number of our large consumers read their water meters daily, and on frequent occasions these consumers have called us on the ’phone and informed us that our meter was either registering slow or was at fault in some other manner. Such a spirit of co-operation is naturally very much appreciated by the water company.
My sixth thought is this: A good water and a continuously satisfactory service will give you a thoroughly satisfied consumer. This thoroughly satisfactory service cannot be furnished without proper co-operation between the meter department and the consumer’s engineer or other man in charge of their water supply.
My seventh thought, or suggestion, is this: Buy good meters. Base your purchases on quality rather than on price. Confine your purchase, if possible, to three makes. In this way your men will become thoroughly conversant with the meters and the efficiency of the department should be increased.
My eighth thought is in reference to the inspection of the patron’s fixtures whenever the meter registration indicates an unusually high consumption of water. We have found, after long experience, that we are justified in having our men make an immediate inspection of water fixtures whenever they find a high consumption. Upon determining the cause of the consumption, they communicate with some one on the premises, and this information is confirmed on the same day by postal from the office. This procedure takes some considerable time, but it has practically eliminated complaints from our consumers. From time to time we find cases where the excess consumption is due to broken service lines, and whenever it is shown that the patron was not conversant with the break, and that he has immediately repaired the break when his attention was called to the matter, we attempt to adjust the bill to hi ssatisfaction, it being our feeling that the posting of a small credit is justified in that the consumer goes away satis fied, rather than with the feeling that the company has been unfair to him. We have found that this policy does not cost a very large amount of money, whereas it tends largely to a better feeling between the consumer and the company.
My last thought is this. My experience, running through the past twenty years, indicates that the great majority of consumers are desirous of being fair to the water company. They expect the water company to keep its meters in order and to collect for the full amount of water furnished to the consumer. The consumer gives the water company no credit for laxity on the part of the water company. In fact, whenever the consumer finds that the water company is not checking up carefully on its meters a doubt is immediately raised in the mind of the consumer regarding the water company’s other operation, as for instance, the integrity of its filtration plant, etc. It seems to me that 95 to 98 per cent, of the patrons are desirous of paying for ail water furnished to them, and will give the company due credit for effort to furnish satisfactory service and in the making of rules to protect the company against the 3 or 5 per cent, of consumers who apparently do not desire to play the game square, we should be careful that we do not work a hardship against the overwhelming majority who do play the game square.
The water commissioners of Ottawa, Kan., have installed a chlorinator at the water works. “By the new device the amount of chlorine is automatically controlled, so that the murky condition of the water following a flood or an extremely dry spell will not be in evidence,” says a local paper.