SOME PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE WITH A METER SYSTEM.
ONE of the many questions of the day among waterworks’ men is the adoption of water meters and the establishment of a meter system. The conditions under which a meter system could be established are so varied that the writer ventures to offer to the society a few suggestions together with his experience with a meter system at the works of the Crystal Water company, Stapleton, S. I.
The care of a water meter should begin as soon as the meter has been received from the manufacturer. The mere fact that a record of the factory test can be furnished you by referring to the number will not suffice, neither will it satisfy your skeptical consumer. Every plant using meters, however few, should be provided with a convenient, but not necessarily expensive testing apparatus, a drawing for which may be procured from any meter manufacturer upon application.
A meter should be put to a severe test before it is sent out for actual service, and the following method has been adopted with successful results. The meter is put under a pressure of 100 pounds to make sure that the joints are tight. If the stuffing-box is found to be leaking, care should be taken in tightening that the spindle may not be bound; for if too tight it is apt to make the meter run lazily under a small stream. A small quantity of water should then be passed through to be sure that the ports, plates and pistons are thoroughly lubricated. After which, five cubic feet at the rate per minute stated by the maker to be the maximum quantity, then, at one-half its capacity and again at one-quarter and finally with a thirty-second inch stream. Notes carefully taken of the variations in each test on cards prepared for the purpose, are preserved for future reference. These test cards have been found of great value in substantiating an argument with incredulous meter consumers.
A small meter should not be allowed to remain on a service over two years; it should then be taken out, thoroughly overhauled and tested and the counter moved back to zero. By this method the cost of repairs can be greatly reduced. Another important reason for this change of meters is that they are frequently strained by frost. The past winter has demonstrated this, for, while some of the meters were frozen solid and broken,many,not quite reaching the bursting point, were found upon testing to deliver a far greater quantity than was registered. At the present time when there are so many meters on the market, it would seem an easy matter to select one, but, considering the prices at which they are selling today, the testing, setting and care taking form a very large proportion of the cost. In the choice of a meter the writer has nothing to offer. The water works manager will have to settle this problem in his own way, but, he should, as near as possible, satisfy himself that the meter is not intermittent, that it will not be damaged by foreign substances such as stones and grit, and that it is sensitive at very low rates of flow.
Before establishing this system, the directors took into serious consideration, ownership, and finally decided that the meters should be the property of the company, charging the same to the construction account; and that they should be placed on the service pipe without auy expense or Inconvenience to the consumer, because they felt it was enough to impose meter restrictions; thus giving the company jurisdiction over them and doing away with a great deal of friction. This method is happily prevailing among water works men and will ultimately end in the meters becoming a portion of the plant.
From experience the writer is convinced that the meter readings should be taken monthly notwithstanding the expense involved. The manufacturer’s bills should be rendered at the end of the month, and domestic bills quarterly. These monthly readings serve as an inspection, and keep you in touch with each meter. Meters have not been found infalliblcjthey often become obstructed and stop, and if left until the end of the quarter, some average of consumption must be resorted to, which is most frequently in favor of the consumer.
In imposing meter restrictions consideration should be shown a consumer, who, by reason of defective plumbing or causes beyond his control has used a large quantity of water. As soon as the readings are received in the office, at the end of the month, the consumer should be notified of any excessive consumption, which notice may be the first intimation of the existence of a leak. This practice has marie for the company many friends and saved unpleasantness at the end of the quarter when bills are presented.
* Read at the American Water Wokrs Association convention at Atlanta, Ga.
The contract between the Crystal Water company and the village of Edge water does not allow a minimum rate, but gives a maximum meter rate of fifty cents per 1,000 gallons and after two years’ trial it has been proved that it is preferable to have a minimum rate with a nominal meter rate per 1,000 cubic feet, rather than no minimum and a high meter rate. In the first instance you can meter every service and feel that your revenue has not been affected, while in the second you would naturally meter only the large consumers, letting the single faucet rates go, a condition which is unfair to both company and consumer, because the small unmetered service, having no restriction, is undoubtely using more water in proportion. At present there are on this plant 1,900 services, 1,000 of which are metered, and it would be better to meter all, were it not for the absence of the minimum rate referred to. A well planned and skilfully managed meter system, would be beneficial to any plant, unless the conditions for a water supply were very favorable, and, even then, it is only a question of time when the mains will be inadequate to furnish the maximum supply, thus impairing the fire service.
Following are some of the physical conditions whereby the plant has been gteatly benefited by a meter system.
The village of Edgewater is located on an island without rivers or large brooks, and the water-shed where impounding would be practicable is[too far away to be available, and that within an economical distance would be in danger of contamination. It was, therefore, necessary to resort to a driven well supply. 80, water with us, under the existing circumstances, is no small matter; it means many acres of expensive water lands and a large number of driven wells with their connections and appurtenances, added to which is a pumping station located near them, a long distance for the transportation of coal and several miles of large mains before reaching the village limits.
In the spring of 1892, owing toincreasing population and the great waste of water under a rate system, the directors of the company were confronted with the question of either a large expenditure in improving some water lands in the interior of the island for an additional supply, or resorting to meters. They chose the latter and by so doing they have cut down the per capita consumption at least fifty per cent without affecting the revenue, improved the fire service and put off for a number of years, or until the growth of the plant would warrant it, the improvement referred to.
Before closing this paper some of the little perplexities attending this system should be mentioned. The Chinese laundry man will bear watching. He does not like the “clock,” as he calls it, and has discovered that meters will not register drops, so will cunningly devise means for procuring his supply. The economical housewife will fill her kitchen tubs by drops, then boast of her small water bills ; and still another way of evading large water charges is by drawing through the stop and waste back of the meter. We obviate this, however, by replacing an ordinary Newport for a compression stop, which does not waste until entirely closed off. It is difficult to make consumers understand that a leak, however small, is like interest, remorseless, and owing to increased pressure, is greater at night than in the day-time. Many of the residences in the town were fitted with improvements and supplied with water by pumping to a tank from the cistern. When the crystal water was introduced, a supply-pipe was run up to the tank with a cock and ball attached to regulate it. This cock will leak at night under the increased pressure, allowing waste through overflow. The meter registers this waste, and some difficulty has been found in collecting large meter bills when, upon inspection, the plumbing work was found to be in perfect order.
You will not doubt, by the tone of this paper, that the writer is a thorough believer in meters and a good meter system ; but this warning may be given to my brother superintendents, that if they intend starting such in a city or town, under a flat-rate system, where people have been allowed to waste all the water they possibly could, they should be provided with not only a good stock of patience but a coat of mail as a protection against the flings and arrows of incensed consumers. Let themJbe assured, however, that if they succeed, and succeed they must, the water board or directors of the company, the fire department, and finally the consumers, will rise up and call them blessed.