NORFOLK’S TESTIMONY IN FAVOR OF METERS.
SUPERINTENDENT H. L. SMITH, of the water department of Norfolk, Va., is emphatic in his indorsation of metered water as a remedy for waste He holds (1) that meters are the only possible safeguard for waste. (2) Waste is an expense borne, as a rule, by the provident and those who observe the rules and regard the city’s interest—thereby entitling them to every protection against increased tax or cost of water. (3) Waste calls for turning into the sewers millions of gallons of water which has been of no service whatever to the party wasting, thereby depleting the supply, and it also calls for an additional cost of pumping into the city, and the additional cost of pumping into the river. (4) Waste, if continued, will eventually dangerously attack your supply and lead to that alarm and danger from which your city is now freeing itself. (5) Unless some sure means of checking waste is established, it will be a very short time before you reach the 6,000,000-gallon demand, and when you are culled upon todeliver this quantity of water per day through the twenty-four-inch main, your citizens will justly say that they are unable to get enough water to meet ordinary domestic demands. The only relief will be in putting down a thirty-six-inch main from your city to Moore’s Bridges pumping station. To do this, considerable money will be required. Will the people refuse to protect that interest which belongs to them? Or will they continue in that line which necessarily means distress to your most valuable interest ? Your city grants valuable franchises to gas companies, etc., light companies, and others, and allows them to throw round themselves that means of protecting their earnings which you deny yourselves in the proper conduct of your own affairs. Cun or should this continue without the attention of those who own these works being called to the condition? And, upon calling their attention to the matter and suggesting such relief as seems wise, your board has performed a duty and relieved yourselves of a responsibility which to me appears very great Upon this question, as so much can be said, I will only, in a concise way, mention that which to me seems pertinent to the matter.
Supt. Smith then points out that the department ha* always Installed a meter wherever in the judgment of the superintendent there was waste of water. If that rule were strictly adhered to. thousands of meters would be needed in Norfolk at the cost of the consumer. The daily per capita consumption of ninety gallons shows a large percentage of waste. But,still, the city, Mr. Smith thinks, has no legal right to force the consumer to pay for a meter, if installed. He adds:
The law and usage of business is that the seller either weighs or measures the commodity sold. To require many of the smaller tenements of this city to pay the cost of meters, and then stand the cost of water lavishly used by the tenants would doubtless tend to affect disastrously the values of such property. This, of course, would be adversely viewed by the owners of such property; and still I cannot see where or how relief can be given. The conditions are adverse to such property; but at the same time the department is to no extent responsible for such con ditions, nor can any relief be suggested that would be in a line of the city’s protection. The question reduces itself to one of self-correction ; time will educate the occupants of such property, they will realize that some regard in their own protection must be given thenseof water. Once accomplished, you enter upon an era of economy in the use of water, resulting eventually largely to the benefit of our city.
The charges at Norfolk for water furnished through meters is fifteen and one-half cents the thousand gallons. Only about one-tenthof the entire consumption Is metered. During the quarter ending March 81, 1899, the pumpage was 377,129.900 gallons, of which 85,972,850 gallons was metered. The meter rental for that quantity was $5,585.82. By applying the low rate above quoted to the entire pumpage of the quarter, the amount collected would have been $56,561, instead of the total of only $30,369 collected. Allowing for waste that is not preventable, the decreased percentage in pumping may beset down at twenty-five per cent. The revenue resulting would then be $42 427, as against $30,369—an increase for the quarter of $12,058, and a decrease in pumpage of about 94,250 gallons in the same time. If so, the gain to the department in the first year would be sufficient to pay for one-half of the meters; would save the cost of pumping about 375,000,000 gallons; and would hold in the supply lakes a like amount that would otherwise have gone into the sewers.
Mr. Smith adverts to the meter rate as reduced in 1898—the reduction in revenue being not less than $8,000 a year. He urges that the original meter rates be restored; and this, all the more that the department will soon have to deliver filtered water to the consumers at an additional cost, for which the council has made no provision. The last administration, in appealing for an additional appropriation for an extension of the plant and filtration, referred also to the necessity for meters, and the thensuperintendent, looking to a general metered system, said: “I cannot too strongly urge the importance of having our water metered, for I know it will stop excessive waste.” The board thereupon reduced the rate, whereby the loss alluded to was incurred, but failed to follow up the recommendation looking to a general meter system, against which there is confessedly a strong prejudice in the city—the people laboring under the absurd delusion that they cannot use as much water as they want without having to pay excessively for it. when, as a matter of fact, this idea is not correct. A majority of the people are careful in the use of water and are not guilty of excessive waste. It is a careless minority who indulge in wilful waste and bring additional cost upon the provident. When meters are generally applied, the people who waste will pay for their own waste.
Superintendent Smith shows that the meter system has been adopted and applied to all consumers by many of the European cities, and adds that it is “today the leading question with all American water works.” He enumerates fourteen large cities which have more than one-half of their services metered; and alludes to many others, including New York, San Francisco, and Kansas City, Mo., which have metered more than one-quarter of their services.
Wilmington, Del., with many hundreds of meters, has been appealed to by those upon whom meters have been placed not to discontinue them.
Minneapolis, through a special committee reports: “The committee recommends as the only definite way to reduce the wuste of water to a minimum, a complete meter system; that all meters should beowned, set, and maintained by the city—a small rental, based on the cost and life of the same being charged —the committee believes that this system will make other heavy expenditures unnecessary.”
John C. Trautwine, jr, says to the Engineers’club, Philadelphia, on October 8. 1898: “The restriction of waste is the key to the solution of Philadelphia’s water problem; the experience of other places leaves no doubt whatever that the proper use of water meters is the only cure for the evil of waste. It is, therefore, most unfortunate that, through ignorance of the facts of the case, the public seems to be standing in its own light by a reluctance to sanction the increased useof meters. The only hardshipinfiicted,even upon those wasteful consumers, would be that of seeing that their plumbing was in good order, and that no considerable quantity of water ran to absolute waste.”
Atlanta, Ga., says: “There never was a better illustration of the duty so constantly pressing upon municipal authorities to save and protect the unthinking public against themselves and against the consequences of their own want of knowledge, as in this instance. The reform was met by a storm of protests, and so great was the opposition that nearly 400 consumers ordered the water off; soon, however, fluding that the pressure and service were so greatly improved, and the rates with meters really less than they were without, they all came back, admitting their error. Such has been the effect of experience and education, with demonstration of success, that now it would not be merely a fight but a revolution,if an attempt were made to abolish meters and filters No more water was pumped in 1895 than was pumped in 1885; upon putting meters in, pumpage fell from 6,000,000 gallons per day to 1,250,000 gallons.”
Atlantic City, N. J.: “The results accomplished by meters have exceeded all expectations; the waste which has been stopped was greater than any one surmised. Stopping this waste has been a hardship to very few, while the benefits reached every taxpayer in the city; no one is deprived of an abundant supply.”
Utica, N. Y.: “With us the use of meters has resulted very satisfactorily; plumbing is of a better class; and our pressure is kept up.”
Poughkeepsie, N. Y.: “ Theconsumers soon become convinced that the system is equitable, and it meets with general approval.”
Providence. R. I: “The practical experience of this city in using meters on an extensive scale, indicates that the advantages claimed by the advocates of the use of water meters are not in the least exaggerated.”
Milwaukee Wis.: “Although it was up hill work for the first two or three years, meters soon became popular; the revenue has steadily increased; the consumption per capita gradually decreased; and the expense of operating kept at about the same figure for the last fiveyears. It has removed the necessity of materially increasing our pumping plant.”
Richmond, Va.: “Our pumpage has been decreased twenty-five per cent. from what it was four years ago; pressure better; and we have a larger number of consumers ”
Lexington, Ky.: “The only effect of meters is to reduce waste, not to reduce legitimate consumption; the large majority of our customers now prefer the meter system as being more equitable, and avoiding espionage and censorship inseparable from the schedule system.”
Harrisburg. Pa.: “We overcame popular objection by teaching the people that the only objectors to meters were those who wanted toget water without paying for it.”