IN a paper on “the water supply of St. Louis, Mo., read by Water Commissioner Flad before the Commercial club, of that city, occurs the following passage:

It is estimated that at least fifty per cent of the water furnished to the city of New York is wasted. New York uses 111 gallons per inhabtant per day, which is about the same as the the present consumption per inhabitant at St. Louis. A liberal use of water should be encouraged, but water wasted through leaky or defective plumbing to prevent freezing due to inadequate protection of the service pipes should be paid for by the party guilty of the waste. The mosteffective way to prevent waste is to supply each tap with a meter. With the universal introduction of meters, the meter rates could be reduced without interfering with the net income of the works. Each consumer should be charged a fixed minimum rate, which could be somewhat less—perhaps, three-fourths of the present schedule rates. The minimum rate would allow for each residence a fixed quantity of water, which would be ample to allow of a liberal use of the same. All excess above such fixed quantity would be paid for.


Without indorsing Commissioner Flad’s estimate that at least fifty per cent, of the water in this city is wasted, it is well known that, if meterage were universally adopted here, as well as in other cities where it is not of obligation, the saving to the community would be enormous—and this all the more in each cities as own their own water system. The pumping would be less, whereby something could be economized in the way of fuel, wear and tear of machinery, wages, etc. The bookkeeping system would also be simplified, and, above all, each water-taker would know just what he was paying for, and would not be compelled to shoulder an extra burden, because his nextdoor neighbors were less economical, or less conscientious in their use of water than himself.

Meterage, also, by restricting the waste of water, would sometimes altogether remove the necessity for a town or city going to the expense of purchasing new sources of water supply, or of adding to, or remodeling at great cost those already in existence, whereby the expense of new pumping machinery, Reservoirs, mains, buildings, and the like would be divided. In any case, if the water were metered and the consequent sources of waste thereby cut off, the need of going to the expense of procuring a new source of supply, etc., would be staved off for many years—a consideration not to be lost sight of by communities, whose financial condition is not of the most prosperous.


The objections to the meterage of water are gradually wearing themselves out, and one by one cities of large population are falling into line and making the system compulsory. But prejudice dies hard, and there are still not lacking those, who, in the teeth of all testimony to the contrary—testimony that cannot be gainsaid—insist that, if water meters were of obligation, the health of the community would suffer, because people would be afraid to use the water for baths, domestic washing, and sanitary purposes. But the allowance of water to the metered customer is always more than enough to cover all domestic needs, while the minimum rate is less than what would be demanded of the consumer if his water were furnished him without being metered. Besides, it is not necessary that a whole city should be metered at once. The work can be done gradually —so much being appropriated every year for the purpose. Certain classes of consumers would naturally be the first to be so treated—those who are notoriously water-wasters, also barbers, laundry keepers saloonkeepers, bathing establishments (such as Turkish baths) public and private schools, factories, municipal, and other large offices, flathouses, apartmenthouses, tenementhouses, factories, those who supply ships with water, street sprinklers, etc.; then, more or less rapidly, all the the other consumers. The first expense is virtually all that need be taken into consideration, as for years afterwards all that is called for is the inspection and repair of the meter; and that need not be a bugbear, since, if the meters are well protected (as they can be) from frost and other external agencies, they will last a long time without requiring any repairs at all, and when they do need repairs, these can be effected easily and cheaply.


When beaten out of that position some fall back upon another, and claim that the expense of placing meters in every house would be too great an undertaking. This so-called argument is easily met by statistics from other cities which have adopted the system, and whose figures show that the meters have more than paid for themselves in a few years— of itself a sufficient refutation of their objection.

The makes and types of meters are many, as a glance at the advertising columns of this paper will show. Illustrations of some of these accompany this article.




A CORRESPONDENT asks whether it is “better to meter every water service in a city or town at a heavy expense for the purchase of meters, or to go on spending money in acquiring new sources of supply, building additional reservoirs, erecting and equipping new pumping stations, laying new mains, and paying every year enormous coal bills in order to give tlie people a better chance to keep on wasting more than half the quantity pumped.” Of course, there are situations, such as that existing in New York today, when a new source of supply is absolutely and imperatively called for. But even in such a case meterage of the water furnished isdemanded with equal imperativeness; so that the question of whether or not a new supply is needed may be altogether omitted while considering the subject of metering the supply, whether that already in existence or that which must one day be called into being to help the other out. On examination it will be found that water w’orks superintendents and engineers almost universally favor the compulsory meterage of the water furnished to consumers, not merely as the only means of putting down reck-e less waste, and of detecting preventable and loss of water by leakage, defective plumbing, and the like, but also as the one fair method of charging each consumer for what is supplied to him. As it is, where meterage is not insisted upon, those Yvho are careful have to pay for those who are extravagant in the use of water—the latter paying no more than the former. The meter system, therefore, puts the burden of responsibility on the consumer, who thereby pays neither more nor less than for what he consumes, whether wisely and economically or recklessly and wastefully. If the latter, he pays the penalty, just as he must pay if he burns gas with the same prodigality. As Mr. John C. Trautwine, late chief engineer of the water bureau of Philadelphia, has remarked:

Selling a man water at an annual rate, varying with the size of attachment, is about as scientific as selling a man groceries at an annual rate, varying with the size of the door through which they are carried out.

Mr. Trautwine miglithave added: “And selling them in such a fashion that one.half of the groceries are lost on the way.” In this connection may be quoted tbe following commonsense letter from Mr. John J. Janney, of Columbus, Ohio, which serves to accentuate the above points:

By the report of [this city’s] water works department for 1895 (I have not a later one) it is shown that the “daily consumption per capita” is 109 gallons. What the report means by that is, riot the “daily consumption.” but the “daily pumpage”— for I presume no person will believe the citizens of Columbus use (consume) 109 gallons of water every day foevery person in the city. I presume all know that a very large per cent, of that amount is what the department sometimes terms “leakage,” but which is properly wastage, and the remedy for that wastage is to make every person pay for the water used. This can be done only by the use of meters. All others pay by the size of the “ opening;” the amount of water used has no effect on the bill. Any person who will take the pains to observe may see in hot w’eather, along almost any of the residence streets, a stream of clear water running along the gutter from a sprinkler on the lawn, which had been running ail night, and nearly all day; and if he will inspect on any hot day the rear of almost any large establishment, he will find the faucet open to keep the water cool, and in cold weather it will be Tunning to keep the W’ater from freezing. The writer has seen all this over and over again. The remedy for this waste is to make all pay for the water used. As a business transaction, one who uses a million gallons a year should have it for a less price than one who uses a thousand gallons It costs just as much to keep the account of a thousand gallons as of the million; but make all pay for all the water used.