The Progress of Meterage

The Progress of Meterage

Nearly 44 years ago the first meters were sold to Jersey City, and during the following 10 years there were 45,000 installed. That record was made April 1, 1887, while at the present time it may be estimated that the number of meters in use will approx mate 5,000,000. In 100 cities of the United States, as shown in the table herewith, the increase in meterage for 12 years has been steady, which proves that where once tried the constant setting of meters followed.

The past year snows conclusively that meters must be included in the regular operation of water-works plants. Their use has become general, while the number of places that have adopted meterage systems has increased 50 per cent. This shows a very healthy condition and must be satisfactory to the superintendent and consumer alike, as by meter measurement the exact number of gallons used is recorded and the water purveyor becomes possessed of accurate data from which he can compute the number of gallons pumped, the gallons wasted and gallons used for legitimate, domestic and manufacturing purposes. The importance of using meters in distribution practice has therefore been fully demonstrated. As managers and superintendents of plants have realized the necessity tor their use. consumers have to a great extent become converted to the principle of measurement of the water served on their premises at a nominal cost, as the most equitable and reasonable one to adopt. The theory of “water as free as air” is all very well when said water flows in crystal rivulets from the mountain top past the threshold of the dwelling, hut there are few such sources of supply to be found at the present time. The grow th of population in all parts of the country, even in the last decade, has caused the crowding of rural districts and converted them into large towns or cities, teeming with industries. These greater populations have wrought many and expensive changes in the sources of supply until the “free water” theory has vanished I ke many others into the dreamy past In its place remains the necessity to provide adequate supplies of pure, wholesome water which has forced itself upon the attention of the managers of water works systems everywhere. Large amounts of new capital have to be raised to meet changes necessary from the original plans in the extension and improvements of plants, and the only demand made upon consumers to meet these expenses, is the nominal charge for the water delivered daily in their homes Pumping machinery and filtration alone are expensive items in water works administration. yet, the complaining water taker, who would scarcely like to drink “free” water loaded with disease germs often growls at the small charge he is asked to pay yearly for the pure water furnished to every floor in h_____s home. Frequently murmurs were heard about the payment of the rate because water was measured the same as any other necessary commodity, upon which the user is compelled to subsist. But these are dying out and the rule now is. rather than the exception, that consumers favor meters as they reduce the cost of supply. The meter has long since become recognized as the only fair and reasonable means through which water shuld be furnished. It saves unnecessary waste, while it does not, in any way, curtail the legitimate use of water for domestic use. The past decade proves, by the number of meters sold, that obstacles to their use is fast dying out. if it has not already done so. The table herewith shows the progress of meterage during the past 12 years. In all. nearly 100 cities and towns have reported the exact condition of meterage in these places and as will he seen in many cases the increase in the use of meters has reached in that time 100 per cent., while in more cases installations are stead_____ly working up each year according to the policies adopted by managers of plants for setting them. Two companies manufacturing meters have announced that they reached, and in one case passed, the millionth mark early this year. This is a remarkable fact when it is taken into consideration the educational process that had to be employed before the consumers became convinced of the fairness of the meter system.

Among the most rapidly metered cities in the country is that of New Orleans of which George G. Karl says: Our present water works system went into operation in February, 1909, with flat rates which were usually less than half of the old water works company’s rates. Consumption, when we had only 10,000 unmetered connections serving 10,000 premises In June of 1909 had reached over 17,000,000 gallons per day. Th____s indicated that the capacity of the plant would be exceeded before nearly all of the premises of the city were connected. An all meter system was at once adopted with fair rates which gave to each consumer the same opportunity to reduce his bill by prevent ng waste. This made meters in demand, and by the end of 1010 we had 23,500 meters in service serving about 26,000 premises, and our total pumpage was about 15,000,000 gallons per day. On December 31, 1912, we had 34,000 meters in use, serving about 45,000 premises, with a pumpage average less than 18,000,000 gallons daily. We are now metering all connections, including free consumers and new fire connections, and have only about 100 unmetered fire connections used with sprikler systems or sealed valves.

Of what significance is it whether the per capita is 80 gallons or 180 gallons as long as the department gets paid for what it furnishes ? It is only by complete meterage that it is possible for any water company to know this, otherwise they are working in the dark. Meters make it possible to very closely tell how much you are accounting for, compared with your pumpage. Instead of watching your unreliable per capita keep your eye on the “unaccounted for” water, and use your efforts to reduce this item to the lowest minimum figure. This appears to me a better and more scientific way of figuring consumption. Universal meterage, of course, can only make this possible.

He further says that “the influence of meters on consumption is shown in a most startling manner. For instance, to give an idea of what the situation would be without meters, as judged by the rate of increased consumption before we commenced to introduce meters and by consumption under the old water works company, prior to 1909, who did not meter and who pumped up to 20,000,000 gallons daily when there were only 7,000 consumers on 125 miles of mains. Place these figures aga nst our present less than 18,000,000 gallons pumped daily, with 48,000 consumers on 538 miles of mains supplied through about 35,600 meters and the actual result of meterage is presented in a very plain and convincing way.” Milwaukee is another city that has adopted a meterage system with the same satisfactory results. W. H. P. Bohman, in describing the conditions that exist in that city, says:

“I am at loss to understand how anyone at this late date can advance any sound arguments in opposition to the selling of water by meter measurement. All other commodities are sold by a unit of measure and why not water? Nevertheless there are any number of people who preach conservation from the house tops yet balk when it comes to installing a water meter, although a meter is unquestionably the biggest conservator of unnecessary and wilful waste. Through personal efforts and by an order Issued bv the railroad commission of Wisconsin, this city has been able to wipe out its last few hundred unmetered services and place them on metered service May 1, 1913. Milwaukee now has 59,000 meters in service and if it was optional with the consumer I feel certain that but very few would care to go back to the Mat rate assessment. I judge from the list of questions asked by FIRF AND WATER ENGINEERING that you are attempting to show that the introduction of water meters causes a reduction in the cost of pumping in proportion to the percentage of services metered. While the general introduction of meters in this city started about 25 years ago and gradually reduced the per capita from 113 gallons in 1887 to 80 gallons in 1901, the lowest point reached, the per capita since then has aga_____n increased to 113 gallons in 1912. Right here 1 might say that at the present time, with a per capita of 113 gallons, we are actually accounting for more water pumped than when our per capita was 81* gallons. I consider the per capita method of figuring water consumption a very conven ent, but altogether unreliable method. If you divide the average daily consumption by the total population and the entire population is not being supplied of what significance or how reliable are such statistics? Twenty-five years ago the ratio of population to consumer was 13, while for the year 1912 it is only seven. In the early years of our water works people of moderate means who extended the water supply into their homes put in one faucet, usually over a kitchen sink. To-day, even the man of moderate means, has bathroom and water-closet facilities. In general the public is getting more and more lavish in the use of water, particularly in the large cities. It is only when the entire population is being supplied that a per capita estimate of consumption becomes of some value. Yet statistics are repeatedly published without taking this into account. Granting that every city was supplying its entire population, for comparative purposes the per capita basis would still be unreliable as the character of the consumer largely controls the consumption. In this city with is large manufacturing industries in which water enters largely as a product of manufacture, 100 of the largest consumers paid $102,000 for water used during the year 1912, nearly 50 per cent, of the entire revenue; one consumer alone paying ovet $70,000. You can readily sec what effect this has on our per capita. As tile business of these 100 firms expands the consumption of water keeps pace with the business and helps to swell our per capita. Of what significance is it whether the per capita is 80 gallons or 180 gallons as long as the department gets paid for what it furnishes. It is only by complete meterage that it is possible for any water company to know this, otherwise they are working in the dark. Meters make t possible to very closely tell how much you are accounting for, compared with your pumpage. Instead of watching your unreliable per capita keep your eye on the ‘unaccounted for’ water and use your efforts to reduce this item to the lowest minimum figure. This appears to me a better and more scientific way of figuring consumption. Universal meterage, of course, can only make this possible. As far as the cost of pumping being reduced owing to the introduction of meters, the publication of figures for this city without some explanation would be misleading. Our pumping stations are located in a high-class residence district and before the installation of Hawley furnaces were using hard coal at a cost of $7 to $8 per ton. As coal and labor constitutes about 90 per cent, of the cut repumping station expenses, a change to a cheaper grade of coal very materially effects the cost of pumping. After installing Hawley furnaces the department for a number of years was able to us,Youghiogheny screenings, paying as low as $1.75 per ton and which greatly reduced the cost of pumping. As the cost of screenings gradually advanced to a much higher figure and in order to still further reduce the smoke nuisance, the department began to use Pocahontas coal costing from $3.50 to $4.50 per ton. which again increased the cost of pumping. The item of labor has also been on the increase during the past In years something like 15 to 20 per cent. In addition to the increase in wages employes now receive one day off each week and 15 days’ vacation annually with pay when formerly they worked every day and were granted a vacation of 10 days only. This necessitated hiring additional men. For this reason the publication of cost of pumping w thout noting all of these other factors entering into cost would he misleading ”

In New London. Conn., where the system is gravity, W. H. Richards, engineer and superintendent, states that the introduction of meters has been very gradual, only 19 per cent, of tintaps being metered at the present time Between the years 1900 and 1912 the population has increased but 12 per cent. while the consumption has about doubled and the per capita consumption has increased 70 per cent. This does not indicate that there has been no saving effected by the introduction of meters,” but simply that the increase in waste has been much faster than the increase in the introduction of meters and, furthermore, the increase in the legitimate use of water has been very great, as in all cities, due to the increased number of fixtures used by the same number of persons. The schedule rate for a dwelling, including lawn sprinkling, six persons, one closet and one bath, is $11 per year. The minimum rate where a meter is used is $4.50 per year, for which 3,800 cubic feet of water can be used. The ordinary family under these circumstances and under the meter rates would use about s x dollars’ worth of water per year if no water was wasted. The meter rate in this city is a regular rate, being the same for all consumers. The rate is $1.20 per thousand for the first 20,000 cubic feet used in six months: 75c. per thousand for the next 40,000 cubic feet, and for all over this, 45c. per thousand.


Municipal Ownership

The showing in Cleveland. Ohio, with a population of 600,000, is good when compared with other manufacturing cities. Its per capita daily consumption of 110.7 gallons cannot be considered large when the factory interests are taken into account. It had only 3,140 meters n use in 1900. against 84,052 in 1912, showing an increase of meters set in five years of 20.065. The percentage of services metered is 77.40. Different from this statement is that of Buffalo, Nf. Y. Here it is shown that with 79,309 taps, only 3,702 are metered. The average daily consumption in 1868 was 4,000,000 gallons, with a population of 100,000. making the daily per capita consumption 10 gallons. In the year 1911-1912, the average daily consumption was 139,581,015 gallons, the population 450,000, making the daily per capita consumption 310 gallons. The greatest amount pumped in 24 hours during the last year was on February 11, 1912, when the pumps registered 184,100,000 gallons, making a per capita consumption of 409 gallons. The least amount pumped in 24 hours during the last year was on November 26, 1911, when the pumps registered 102,790,000 gallons, making a per capita consumption of 228 gallons.

These are interesting figures when compared with cities using meters. The per capita consumption must show a large per centage of waste even taking into account the large manufacturing interests of the city. Buffalo is in the same class as New York, Philadelphia and Chicago as to the abnormal use of water, only that Buffalo is a good leader in the number of gallons wasted. To sum up the facts contained in the table it is apparent that the introduction of meters commenced in 1869 has made remarkable progress during the intervening years and that meterage is firmly established as the most important asset in municipal water distribution.




Since the data on this subject was printed in the special edition of this journal for the American Waterworks Association Convention at Rochester one year ago, meterage has indeed progressed in a remarkable manner. This is owing to the fact that users of water have been educated to realize that instead of having to pay more for the water they use it is in reality furnished them through meters at a less cost than on a flat rate and with no curtailment of the amount necessary for consumption for all ordinary purposes. In many cities it now happens that applications for the installation of meters have often to wait before orders can be filled, owing to pressure of work On the meter departments. In addition to this fact, the city authorities heretofore opposed to a general system of meterage have come to a realization of the judiciousness of selling water through meters rather than have a large proportion of it go to waste through carelessness of the users. It has been found that water sold at 10 cents a thousand gallons is more economical than paying tor water at a Hat rate that averages a much higher price, hence this wonderful change of sentiment in favor of meters. Every week important facts relating to meterage are published in this journal, which tend to keep the waterworks man and water user well informed on this important subject, and to this enlightenment of what steps have been taken to introduce meters for general use may be attributed. in some measure, the public attitude toward furnishing water by measurement.

Some people in Philadelphia were so opposed to meterage that they had an ordinance passed by the city council practically prohibiting the installation of meters, and it was only recently that an effort was made to have this ordinance repealed so that those who desire to take water by measurement might do so. John C. Trautwine, jr., C. E., while engineer of the water bureau, and since that time, has taken particular interest in meterage and has given much valuable information on the subject for the benefit of city legislators and the public alike. Me lias said: “It is of the first importance that our citizens should be encouraged to use water not only freely, but lavishly, whatever the cost to the city. No system of waste restriction that would restrict the lavish use of water should be considered for a moment. It is far better to have a gallon wasted than to discourage the proper use of a pint. To say that the meter may be used without curtailing the legitimate or necessary amount of supply suggests that its normal function is to curtail the supply, whereas the advocates of the meter advocate it because it increases the supply encouraging and stimulating its lavish use, by simply making every water-taker a water inspector, thus saving the oceans of water now wasted and distributing them for use. at the same time improving the pressures and thus sending a more ample supply through every faucet.”

An engineer who has given considerable attention to the subject of water meters expresses his opinion on the proposition of universal meterage at Birmingham, Ala., as follows: “There is absolutely no question as to the advisability of charging for water service on the basis of meter measurement. In the first place, it is just that the consumer should pay for what he receives, and that the company should receive payment for what they deliver. So far as the water itself is concerned, the meter tells the story, and it is a proven fact that a water meter, which is accurate at installation, will stay so for a long period of time, if it is not stopped by foreign matter lodging inside of it In that case the company, who has the care and control of it, is the loser till it cleans it out. That the above is true is proven by the willingness of all water companies that the city officials may check any meter at any time, and to accept their ruling as to accuracy. There is a tremendous waste of water in every city, and it is right and propert that this waste be stopped, or paid for by the parties allowing it, and it must be remembered that the consumer has rights in his home that all others must respect. This puts it up to the consumer to stop the waste or pay for it. That this waste is a very large factor in the cost of furnishing water supply is shown by the report of an eminent engineer, who uuts the waste in New York City for a recent year at over one-half the total pumpage, and for another large city for the same year over 80 per cent. Bumping this wasted water was a burden of cost the consumer eventually had to pay. Die installation oi meters will make the consumer individually interested in stopping waste, and thereby make lower rates possible. The meter rate of 20 cents per 1,000 gallons offered by the local company is very reasonable, l he cost of fuel and labor to actually pump the water is not the only expense attached to water supply. There is a very large investment required for preparedness. Pumps, filters and mains cost money and when installed must be big enough to provide for growth, even if not used to their full capacity for some years. I he interest on this entire investment must be earned even when operating at less than lull load summer and winter. For this preparedness to serve the company is entitled to compensation so long as the consumer is connected to the mains, even though no water is used. To meet this reasonable obligation there should be a service charge paid by each consumer connected. A service charge of $1 per quarter for domestic connections of ⅝-inch and s maller should be fair to both company and consumer. In addition to this. service charge, the company would receive 20 cents per 1,000 gallons of water actually pumped. Connections larger than 5/8-incli should pay a larger service charge and the same meter rate as all other consumers. The proposed reduction in meter rater for large metered consumption is fair. As to the flat raters, cut them out. They have no place in an intelligent business transaction. No family would think of contracting with their grocer for a year’s stock of supplies for a flat sum, neither would a found/y contract for a year’s supply of pig iron at a lump sum price Groceries are purchased by count or weight, and pig iron by the ton. Buy your water by measure at a fair price for the water, and pay for the readiness to serve separately. The people should understand that about four-fifths of them are using water reasonably and without waste, and that they are being victimized by the other one-fifth, who do all the wasting. This was demonstrated by investigations of the water bureau 15 years ago. and it has recently been confirmed by a house-to-house inspection under the direction of the present chief, Mr. Dunlap. It is with great diffidence that I venture to question the soundness of the conclusion of the present director, that the major portion of the waste is to be found in business, industrial or manufacturing establishments.’ When I was in the water bureau we had no means of determining accurately the relative quantities used by such establishments, on the one hand, and by residences, on the other; and 1 am not aware that such a determination can be made with confidence to-day; but our guess (and we were in position to guess intelligently) was that the manufacturing consumption was less than 10 per cent, of the total. If that was correct, the cutting off of the whole manufacturing consumption (use and waste combined ) would reduce the total consumption by less than 10 per cent., whereas the mere elimination of waste in dwellings leaving them free to use all they wanted) would reduce the consumption by at least 50 per cent. True, a large manufactory does use a good deal of water (and probably wastes some, if there is no meter), but such establishments are relatively few, while our dwellings number some 300,000, out of which some 60,000 are wasting more than the whole 800,000 use; and it is this waste, in these 060,000 dwellings, going on 21 hours every day. and days in the year, which is restricting the use of water, crippling the waterworks, paving the way to their sale or lease, and in the meantime calling for more millions to be squandered in unnecessary pumps and filters.”



Houston, Tex., recently passed an ordinance for general meterage, and in order to show how anxious the authorities were to carry out the law and how willing the people were to adopt meters the following extracts from the report of the superintetndent of that city may be given:

“The statistics shown under this caption are a concrete example of the effect of meters on consumption, and should commend itself forcibly to all citizens, in that it proves conclusively the fact that to meters more than to any other factor credit is due for checking wilful or neglectful waste of water. A pumpage of Ill gallons per capita in 1907 has been reduced to 53 gallons per capita to-day without depriving any person of this essential element. Dire results were predicted hy fearful people just four years ago when the meter system was proposed, hut to-day those who were formerly antagonistic are firm believers in this plan of delivering water to consumers. It is possible during tne coining year lo further reduce waste, thereby minimizing pumpage. The meter problem has been successfully solved, the department having installed 3,718 meters during the past year, with 1 ,556 meters in service -March 1, 1911, making a total of 8,131 meters installed, will make 82 per cent, meter rates and about IS per cent, tint rates now in vogue; with 2,235 meters on hand not installed. Meters are placed on all new service connections as soon as made, and this considerably reduces setting cost per meter in comparison to the plan operated several years ago of returning to meter a connection at some time later.”

Theodore A. Leisen, engineer and superintendent of the Louisville waterworks, who sees the practicability of metering all of his supply, says: “The installation of meters on all services will have a tendency to curtail unnecessary consumption, and thereby postpone the time when the pumpage facilities must be increased, and partly on that account, but also for the reasons advanced therein, 1 submit the following plea for meters and a system of meter rating: Assuming that it is the intention to make further changes in the water rates before the end of another year, and believing that the sale of water by meter measurement is the only rational method under which the water company can operate on strictly scientific basis, and at the same time deal justly with all consumers, 1 wish to submit the following proposition, in the hope that it may form the basis for future reductions in rates, rather than having recourse to greater discounts. The primary, and most convincing argument in favor of selling all water by meter measurement is that the consumer pays only for what he actually uses, and in arranging for a meter schedule of rates this fact should be kept constantly in mind, and any scheme, however advantageous or simple, which departs from this principle will be open to more or less reasonable objection. No system of rates which ignores the necessity for a fixed minimum income from every service can successfully withstand the test of commercial requirements without making the unit rate for water excessively high, thereby working a hardship on the large consumer, but, on the other hand, the practise of establishing a minimum rate, which permits a predetermined quantity of water to be used under that rate—a system in vogue in this, and many other cities—is objectionable for the reason that it nullifies the primal argument advanced for the adoption of the meter, by deliberately charging the consumer for water which is not consumed in the majority of cases. As an instance, we charge a minimum rate of $30.50 per annum, which permits the consumption of 70i) gallons per day. If the consumer only uses 35l.l gallons per day—an amount which experience has shown to be ample for tbe average dwelling— he is charged for 50 per cent, more water than he uses. Another undesirable feature in the tariff of meter rates prevailing in many cities, is the sliding scale which discriminates against the small consumer, and, although commercially reasonable from the viewpoint of the water department. which can afford to Supply in wholesale quantities at reduced rates, it is nevertheless unjust to the individual consumer. Assuming that it is desirable to place all services on a metered basis, and as this appears to be an opportune time to inaugurate a radical departure in the method of charging, and the rates for supplying water, a scheme has been devised which it is believed will obviate all of the objectionable features referred to—forestall any possible charge of discrimination—insure a substantial reduction in the water rates of nearly all consumers: provide adequate revenue for the operation of the water company, and at the same time offer to manufacturers a rate so low as to make it an inducement to them to discard the use of well water in favor of tbe city supply.”

In reporting on the work of meters so far installed he further says: “For the purpose of systematizing the work of installing and maintaining meters, having in view the probability of inaugurating a movement for an all-metered system. a separate meter department has been established. and this branch of the work is now receiving more attention with very gratifying results. Meters are being inspected, and promptly repaired, and many old meters are being removed and replaced with new ones, and many dead’ or non-prouctivc meters have been taken out. As a consequence, while the total number of meters m actual use indicates a decrease from the pre Moils years’ records, the quantity of metered water and the gross revenue therefrom shows a decided increase. The number of meters in actual service at the end of the year was 2,890, which is a decrease of 47. Of the above number, 2,oPP were 1 inch in size and under, and 7hl were over 1 inch in size. The following gives the comparison between tbe metered and non-metered consumption:

“The water consumed through meter measurement was 35.0 per cent, of the total consumption, and produced 44.1 per cent, of the total revenue from the sale of water 1 he table below shows the number of meters of each size in active service : the total quantities metered by each size, and the average number of gallons of water passing daily through each meter:

With Boston and probably Philadelphia, besides many leading cities falling into line for selling water by measurement certainly it must be concluded that the last barriers against the general introduction of meters have gradually been thrown down through the knowledge of the equitableness of tbe system. Toronto has spent large sums to bring its waterworks system to a high tandard and it now proposes, as a further improvement, a general meterage system to cast $70,000. These facts are given to show that tbe trend of opinion on tile question of furnishing water by measurement has been greatly changed during the past year, and that at least in this special branch of water distribution great progress has been made.