The growing use of water meters and the common practice of private water companies and of cities in requiring householders to pay a minimum monthly or yearly rate, regardless of the fact that the meter may not show the value of water used, lends interest to a recent court decision on this subject in Wisconsin. A consumer in Manitowoc, in that State, who had refused to pay for more than the actual water used, sued the water company for damages, and sought a court order to compel the restoration of the suspended service. He won in both his contentions, the court holding that the franchise privilege given the company to charge a minimum rate had no weight in the affair. Only the fact that consumers have failed to keep a record of the water consumed, saves the company from a batch of suits to recover.
Charles J. Bates, in writing to the New York Times on the subject of the “Advantage of water meters” gives some interesting facts. Mr. Bates says that he lives in the country, on the line of the mains of the Hackensack, N. .T., Water company, and has an acre of ground. It is his habit to rend his water meter every Sunday morning, and thus he detects leakage and waste and [takes] measures for correction before it has gone far. The following (he adds) is my record for five years ending December 80, 1900: Total water consumed in five years, 50,161 cubic feet; average consumption per year, 10,032 cubic feet; average consumption per week, 193 cubic feet; 193 cubic feet at seven and one-half gallons equals 1,447 gullons per week, or, say, 209 gullons per day. The family, composed of six grown people and a servant, making seven, therefore, consumed for each one an average of a little less than thirty gallons per day. We use water freely. One acre of ground needs more or less watering. A small greenhouse needs its share, and we do considerable photographing; but the average for all purposes is as stated above. The greatest benefit of the meter to me has been as a detector of leaks. We use water very freely, but avoid wasting it. It seems to me it might be a good idea for The Times to get from the Hackensack Water company a copy of its pamphlet on the subject and publish its reasons for adopting the use of meters. There seems to be no doubt of their great advantage.
The New York Times is away off in its figures ns to the daily per capita consumption of water in this city and what it considers a sufficient per capita allowance for domestic purposes. It neglects, also, to enumerate the various uses to which water is put outside of domestic purposes, many of which, such as streetsprinkling, fire, and police departmental purposes, public fountains, park purposes, and the like, ought most certainly to come under the head of direct per capita uses. Be that us it may, however, it has taken a commonsense view of the meter question, and, commenting upon a letter which it published on the subject of the use of water for domestic purposes, it says editorially:
We assume that the correspondent whose letter we refer to is a gentleman living under comfortable conditions of domiciliary environment. We may also assume that he has a family, or is a member of one. If the subject of water-waste interests him enough to excuse writing about it, he would do well to procure a water meter and attach it to the service pipe of his house, if, having done this, he will divide the total reading of gallons used in a given time by the number constituting his household, he will probably find that the daily per capita consumption for which he is responsible is less than twenty gallons per head. Many who have tried this instructive experiment, after putting their fixtures in order, have found it to full below fifteen gallons. The allowance of twelve gallons per head per day for domestic use and house waste in New York was liberal.
Of course, the above estimate cannot be indorsed as correct, even if only strictly domestic uses are taken into consideration. But the remarks serve to point the moral, that meterage of water saves expense to the consumer as a consumer, and, where the supply is municipal, as a taxpayer.