RESULTS OF USE OF METERS IN THE METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT, BOSTON

RESULTS OF USE OF METERS IN THE METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT, BOSTON

Samuel E. Killam.

It is a matter of history that the city of Boston first introduced service meters as early as 1852, as a means of checking waste. At this early date, four years after municipal water had first been introduced, waste of water became a source of anxiety to the Cochituate Water Board and the following is taken from a report of that year: “The quantity that is used and wasted is more than double what was

anticipated to be sufficient for our present population.” The consumption was 8,125,800 gallons, equivalent to 55 gallons per capita.

The first meters installed were known as the Huse meter, but they were not very reliable, and during the next ten years the work of installing service meters was mainly experimental. In 1861, there were 104 service meters in use, most of which had been applied to the leading hotels. The use of meters was extended year by year until in 1871 there were 1,091. meters in service. Then came a change in policy, and during the next nineteen years only six meters were installed, but in the meantime the new Sudbury River Works had been completed, which promised an inexhaustible supply.

The quantity of water delivered to the distribution system continued to increase, and in 1879 the consumption in the highservice district, which was almost entirely for domestic use, was at the rate of 110 gallons per capita per day during the day hours, and 72 gallons per capita during the night hours, from 11:00 p. m. until 4 a. m.

In the Charlestown district of Boston, in 1881, an experiment was made by using the Deacon meters to detect waste, and the per capita consumption was reduced from 58.5 gallons per day to 37.7, but the subject of waste was not taken up in earnest until July, 1883, when a systematic plan of inspection and of observation by operating the waste detector meters by districts was inaugurated under the personal supervision of the late Dexter Brackett.

In addition to the Deacon waste observation, a house-to-house inspection was made, which resulted in the issuance during the first four months of over 6,000 notices to stop the waste of water from house fixtures. The consumption in some districts at this time was reduced over 35 per cent. Much waste of water was prevented by the inspection of house plumbing and, aided by the use of Deason meters, the consumption was reduced from 91.5 gallons, in 1883, to 68 gallons per capita in 1884. The inspection was continued with decreasing diligence for about ten years, but the checking of waste was not permanent, and the consumption of water continued to increase as in former years.

In the early 90’s it became apparent that the city of Boston had nearly reached the capacity of its sources of water supply, and there were several nearby cities and towns whose sources of supply were being investigated as to quantity and quality. By an act of the General Court, approved June 9, 1893, the State Board of Health was directed to investigate the subject of a future supply for the Boston Metropolitan District, and in February, 1895, a report was made recommending the taking of the waters of the south branch of the Nashua River at a point in the town of Clinton, the works so constructed to be utilized in conjunction with the sources then in use by the citv of Boston.

The Metropolitan Water Act was approved June 5, 1895, which provided for a board of three commissioners to construct, operate and maintain a system of water works substantially as recommended by the State Board of Health. The act further provided that. a city or town, any part of which was within a radius of ten miles of the State House, should, upon payment of such sums as should be determined by the Board, be admitted into the district. Subsequent legislation combined the Metropolitan Water Board and the Metropolitan Sewerage Commission into one commission known as the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board, consisting of three members appointed by the Governor. The Board at present is made up as follows: Henry P. Walcott, M.D., chairman; Edward A. McLaughlin and Thomas E. Dwyer, with William E. Foss, Chief Engineer of Water. Works.

The Metropolitan Water District at present is made up of the following cities and towns: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Lexington, Malden, Medford. Melrose, Milton, Nahant, Newton, Quincy, Revere. Somerville, Stoneham, Swampscott, Watertown and Winthrop. The town of Swampscott was admitted under a special act of the Legislature, it being outside of the ten-mile limit prescribed in the act. The city of Newton, which is a part of the district, is still supplied from its own local source.

On January 1, 1898, the works were so far completed that formal possession was taken of the collecting works of the city of Boston and actual operation and maintenance commenced. Previous to the formation of the Metropolitan Water District, nearly all the cities and towns obtained their supplies from local and different sources, and maintained separate pumping units, storage reservoirs and distribution systems. After the Metropolitan Works were put in service, eleven sources of supply were abandoned and five pumping plants operated in place of twenty. The water is delivered to the district from the Wachusett, Sudbury and Cochituate watersheds by gravity through aqueducts and the low-service districts are supplied in most part without pumping. In 1916, about 72 per cent, of the entire supply was delivered by gravity directly to the distribution system, the remainder being pumped, and 1.4 per cent, being raised a second time by pumping for the higher elevations in the district.

In 1902, under Acts of the General Court, chapter 391 authorized the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board to construct works for the measurement of water supplied to the cities and towns in the Metropolitan Water District, and to report the quantity supplied to each and also whether the water was being improperly or unnecessarily used, and to make recommendations in regard to preventing waste and the manner of proportioning the annual water assessment Before measurements to determine the quantity and waste could be made, it was necessary to provide means for measuring the water supplied to the cities and towns.

In anticipation of the passage of the act, extended studies had been made to determine the number and size of the meters which would be required for measuring the water. The Venturi meter was adopted as the best and most suitable device to measure the large quantities required without too great a loss of head. This meter is a speciallv designed pipe which contains a. contracted section called a throat, which causes a depression in the hydraulic gradient. At the inlet end and at the throat small holes are drilled into the tube and service pipes which transmit the pressures are connected with the registering instrument, which may be located some distance from the tube. Since the meter tube contains no moving parts or obstructions, the wear on the interior surface is imperceptible, and a throat which was recently removed after seventeen vears’ continuous service was found to be in excellent condition.

There are now sixty-nine meter tubes installed in the district, carying in size from six inches to sixty inches.

The record of flow is recorded at the register and is due to the difference of pressure on the level of a column of mercury, which carries a float. The position of this float is thus made dependent upon the quantity of water passing through the meter, and by suitable mechanism the quantity is recorded by counter and the rate of flow recorded on charts. The pressure at the throat of the meter is often several pounds less than at the inlet end, but the loss of pressure is nearly all regained at the outlet end of the tube.

There are several types of registers. All have been found to be simple and rugged in construction and responsive to minute variations in rates of flow. There are in use in the district fiftv-four type D. five type M, and one tvpe V registers.

The autographic records from the registers give information regarding unusual drafts of water, and assistance has been given local water departments bv notifying them of an increase of flow caused by underground leaks. In districts where the quantity to be measured is small, the Hersey Detector meter, model F. M., has been used.

The total cost to January 1st, 1917, of installing the meters, including meter registers and appurtenances, was $94,364. The total cost for charts and repairs to meter registers since their installation in 1903 averaged about $3.50 per meter register per year.

A report on the measurement, consumption and waste of water supplied to the Metropolitan Water District, with recommendations, was made by the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board to the General Court in February, 1904, which resulted in the passage of an act that the water assessment for each municipality supplied by the Metropolitan Works be based on the valuation and consumption after the year 1905, on the ratio of one-third valuation to two-thirds consumption of water. Following, as it did, the investigation of the leakage in the district, made by the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board in the years 1903 and 1904, it is fair to assume that the act levying a part of the water assessment on consumption was a factor in keeping down the per capita consumption during the next few years.

In 1907, an act was passed that after January 1, 1908, all cities and towns which derived their source of supply from the Metropolitan Water Works should equip all new service pipes with water meters, and should also equip annually with meters 5 per cent, of the services that were unmetered on December 31st, 1907, and should thereafter charge each consumer in proportion to the amount of water used.

The quantity of water consumed became a very important element, and it was made an incentive, not only for the district as a whole, but for each municipality, and finally, the most important of all, each consumer, to check and to stop the unnecessary and wasteful consumption of water. The gradual installation of more service meters in the district has reduced the average daily consumption per inhabitant from 130 gallons, in 1907, to 89 gallons in 1916.

The climatic and industrial conditions are immediate factors in considering the difference in the amount of water consumed in the various districts for different years. In Boston, the quantity used for business and manufacturing is larger than in any other municipality. The traveling, or suburban, population from outside the city use the water, but is not included in the census population upon which this per capita consumption is based. However, if Boston is divided into various districts, as measured by the master meters, it will be observed that there has been a decided decrease in the per capita consumption in the districts since the installatoin of service meters._

There has been a gradual reduction in the quantity of water used with the increase in the use of meters. In Melrose, which is largely residential, the reduction due to the installation of service meters was especially noticeable. The introduction of meters was begun in 1907, and on January 1, 1908, about 30 per cent, of the takers weer changed from scheduled to meter rates, and at the end of the year 1908 practically all the services were metered. The records on the master meter showed a saving of 55 gallons per capita in two years, a reduction of 46.7 per cent.

The following table gives the per capita consumption in gallons by months, per cent, of services metered in the city of Melrose, and the average temperature of the air for the years 1907, 1909 and 1916:

The daily average quantity of water used in the district in 1916 was 17,808,000 gallons less than during the year 1908, and the per capita consumption has been reduced from 130 gallons to 89 gallons, equivalent to over 31 per cent. This reduction in the use of water has been accomplished largely by the introduction of service meters.

The following table shows the equivalent saving of 48,799,000 gallons per day in the district if the population of July 1, 1916, is applied to the reduction of 41 gallons in per capita consumption since 1907:

If the conditions as they existed prior to 1904 had been allowed to continue, additional sources of supply would, without doubt, have been required before the present time. It is also probable that if the act requiring the installation of service meters on all works receiving a supply from the Metropolitan Works had not been enacted, it would have been necessary to construct additional works by 1920. The estimated safe capacity of the Cochituate, Sudbury and Nashua River Works is 173,000,000 gallons per day. It was estimated in the report of the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board to the Legislature of 1904 that the cost of new works required within the next twenty-five years to supply the probable demand for water if the waste was not checked to be at least $32,000,000, assuming that the district remained as constituted at that time.

The greater the quantity of water used the more it costs in the end to furnish water to the tap. At a fixed rate, the consumer is charged a certain sum, and, naturally, is not directly interested in leaky pipes as long as no damage is caused by the water. The leaks increase in volume, and the quantity of water required for legitimate use is running to waste. Wasted water means larger mains, more pumping machinery, wasted coal and labor and, finally, extension of works for larger supplies, and an increased sewer system to care for the wasted water. Many are willing to pay for their own and their neighbors’ waste by general taxation, but are unwilling to continue to pay for their own waste when presented with a quarterly bill.

The writer believes that water meters are as much a part of a welloperated water works system as gas or electric meters are to their respective works. Many gas companies account for 80 per cent, of gas delivered through the master meters. Well-managed water works in Europe account for all but 10 per cent, of their supply. Cannot American municipalities do as well? Waste of water can be divided into two classes, leakage from mains and waste from service pipes. The first can be stopped by’ efficient management, and the latter by enlisting the consumer’s co-operation by giving him a direct pecuniary benefit. It appears to the writer that the best way to get results is to sell the water by measure and to keep the measuring devices in good working condition. The writer maintains that the waste which has been stopped in the Metropolitan Water District of Boston by the installation of service meters has deferred for the present the construction of additional works and reduced the cost of maintaining existing works.

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