Some Practical Results of 100% Metering
Contrasting the Cost of Water Under Meter System and Flat Rate Method of Charges—No Waste with the Meters—Cost Reduced
THE following paper is particularly valuable in its methods of contrasting the cost of water delivered under the meterage system with that paid for on a flat rate basis. This is especially true in relation to the manner in which the author shows the extravagance in waste which the flat rate system invariably entails. For those superintendents whose departments are still struggling under the flat rate method of charges the arguments which follow will be found of particular value in driving home arguments for the adoption of a meter system.
Causes of water waste are many and include: Failure to turn off spigots after using water, failure to turn off hose after washing sidewalks, unnecessary sprinkling of lawns and sidewalks, leaky fixtures, leaky mains and services, toilets with too large a tank capacity, deferring maintenance of fixtures, garages now on a flat rate which are supposed to be metered, unauthorized use of water for purposes other than for fire from fire protection systems (for which a readiness-to-serve charge only is made), hydraulic elevators not re-using the water, street and sewer flushing, unauthorized use of fire hydrants for steam rollers, etc. All these cases can be controlled automatically by metering. And not only without additional cost, but with reduction of cost and an increase in quantity of water available.
Flat Rate System Causes Waste
The proof of waste under a flat rate system is easily shown by examining statistics of cities where a change from flat rate to metered rate has been made. In these cases a reduction is shown of from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of what had been pumped under flat rate systems. To measure and locate the waste at all adequately meters must be used, as only with meters can it be told whether the use of the water is legitimate or waste. In the flat rate system the cost of effective operation, inspections, pitometer tests, waste surveys, etc., more than offsets the cost of meters. Unlike flat rate inspections, meters are on the job all the time. No public utility would be considered on a sound operating basis if its unaccounted-for product exceeded 10 per cent, of its total product, yet most water departments, and even privately operated water companies, will show that the unaccounted-for use of water will be at least 40 per cent, of the total pumpage. This is particularly true where a flat rate system is used.
Waste Eliminated By Meters
Wherever meters have been installed, whether the system is partially or wholly metered, there has been a marked reduction in the water delivered, with no apparent reduction in the legitimate use of water. For instance, in the northern and western sections of the new annex of Baltimore and Baltimore County the per capita consumption is now from 40 to 50 gal. daily. But before 100 per cent, metering it was, Catonsville at least, 100 gal. per capita daily. In Highlandtown, which is less than 20 per cent, metered and where there is a preponderance of industrial use, the per capita consumption is about 140 gal. a day. Baltimore City’s daily per capita consumption is about 170 gal. Now this 170 is a far higher figure than would be had with meters. Cleveland reduced her per capita daily consumption from 165 to 90 gal. In 1898 Milwaukee, with about 60 per cent, of the total service metered, had reduced the per capita consumption from about 300 to 80 gal. In Los Angeles metering reduced the figure from 300 to an average of 120 gal.; and in this case the presence of wide, deep lawns and much shrubbery probably make the consumption much greater than would otherwise be the case. In Atlanta. Ga.. the reduction gained by the installation of meters, in the total water delivered was 60 per cent.
Where flat rates are in effect the water consumption varies from 150 to 200 gal. per day per capita. Where metered rates are in effect the consumption is, in general, 40 to 50 gal. Thus there is four times as much water used under a flat rate system as is used under a metered system. This means that land must be bought and paid for under the flat rate system for reservoirs to care for a storage four times greater than would be needed under a metered system. Four times greater capacity is required in the pumps, in the purification plant and in the distributing system. The operating expense of pumping, purifying and distributing four times as much water as would be used with meters installed is also very considerable.
The unit cost of installation (including the cost of the meter) will be about $12 in the old part of Baltimore and about $15.50 in the annex. Taking the installation cost at $15.50 and assuming’ there are 10,000 services, we should have a cost of $155,000, on which interest, sinking funds, and depreciation of, say 9 per cent, will have to be paid. We can assume then that $225,000 will be the yearly meter expense provided Baltimore is 100 per cent, metered. If the city of Boston, with a consumption of 112 gal. daily per capita, is taken as comparable to Baltimore, there is no reason why the consumption in Baltimore should not be reduced from 170 to 112 gal. This would be a reduction of 34 per cent, and would save the citizens of Baltimore at least $344,435 yearly. This saving is at present a dead loss to the citizens. It would pay for the entire cost of installation of meters within five years.
“The supply of water is not a fixed service, like police and fire protection, organized to an extent dependent only upon the amount of population, but is a service varying according to the amount of use; hence that part of the use over and above the minimum required for the health and sanitation is a cost correctly chargeable to the individuals responsible for waste and should be collected from them and not from the tax levy.”
How Cost of Water Is Reduced
There is no doubt that a considerable reduction in the tax rate could be made if water was sold entirely by meter. From my knowledge of business and from study of water works statistics, the reduction in the tax rate should l>e from 15 ct. to 25 ct. There is no reason why the actual reduction in water supplied should not equal or exceed 50,000,000 gal. daily. It is possible to reduce the actual water consumption in Baltimore by one-half, or from 170 gal. per day per capita to say, 85 gal. per day per capita. Immediately the capacity of the system is doubled for the same population, and instead of an assumed life of 10 years before additional capital expenditures are required there would be a life of 20 years. Putting it another way we can say that the same capacity would be able to serve double the population. The operating expenses will also be cut in half.
Taking the total average cost per million gallons delivered at $80 (as is reported from statistics of 28 cities in 1919) we have, for a reduction of 20,750 million gallons reduced the yearly operating cost by $1,606,000. Deducting the yearly assumed meter expense of $225,000, we have a net yearly saving of $1,381,000, or 23 ct. on the tax rate. The present filtration plant can be made to supply the needs of an increased population to the extent of 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, with the elimination of the present waste. It” the waste is not stopped the plant must be increased. The cost of new units for the filtration plant will exceed the investment in meters. The investment in distribution system is less with meters than on a flat rate. Why continue a system requiring a 20-in. main for a particular extension when under a meter system a 12-in. main will supply all the water needed ? The operating cost decreases as the amount of water pumped decreases, as to pumping, filtration and chemical treatment. The saving on such costs will be greater than the cost of operating on the meter system. If meters are decided upon now there will lie enough money already authorized Results of 100 Per Cent. Metering
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to enable the city to buy them, if not decided upon, another loan will be necessary within ten years to increase the supply.
Wasted Water Costs More Than Meters
The cost of the wasted water is much greater than the fixed and operating charge of a meter system. The cost of purchasing and installing would be distributed over a 5-year period, whereas deferring the use of water meters reduces the margin between an ample and an insufficient supply of water. The city should have protection in addition against the cost of handling the extra sewerage caused by the present waste. Indeed meters should be installed even with an unlimited supply of water, because it is cheaper to use meters than to do without them, and it costs less money to have water on a metered basis than on a fiat rate. Without a meter system for recording the amount of water used and a charge for water by meter based on both fixed and fluctuating yearly costs, there is no incentive for any private, domestic or industrial customers or any city department to avoid waste. The city departments as well as private users waste water under the present system. In no sense of the word can meters be said to increase the expense over that of the flat rate. The only saving of a flat rate is in the annual billing as compared with quarterly billing with meters, and that is more than offset by the added expense of stopping or trying to stop the waste in other ways. Quarterly meter readings keep the meters in first class order owing to the more frequent inspections.
Supply of Water Not Fixed Service
The supply of water is not a fixed service, like police and fire protection, organized to an extent dependent only upon the amount of population, but is a service varying according to the amount of use: hence that part of the use over and above the minimum required for health and sanitation is a cost correctly chargeable to the individuals responsible for the waste and should be collected from them and not from the tax levy. The method of charging for water through meters is a fairer method of charging than under any other system. Water rates cannot be equalized as between occupants of separate houses of the same size, nor as between families of the same size, for the use is different in each case; so that any attempt at equalization that is not based on the amount of water used is a farce. Meters are necessary to effect rates based on the amount of water used. It is not fair, for instance, to use any but a meter basis where some houses have flush tanks of 8 gal. capacity, and others have them of only 5 or 3 gal., and different types of faucets and other water fixtures.
(From paper read before the Engineers’ Club, Baltimore, Maryland.)
Water Supply in Adams, Mass., Low—Lack of rain has caused the water level in the reservoir of Adams, Mass., to drop several feet despite the fact that the pumps have been operating night and day. Conservation of the water has been requested of the consumers.