Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About…Water Meters

A typical water meter register showing a meter...

We recently came across an extensive article “Tech Brief – Water Meters” in the California Water Journal (Fall, 2013) that explained in great detail the cost, installation, and types of water meters.

Since so few of us have time to divulge in a six-page article, we thought we would break it down into a cliff-note version for all our water utility billing software customers out there.

What do water meters do?

  • Provides readings to determine usage to be billed
  • Allow water utilities to bill based on usage instead of flat rate billing
  • Monitor the volume of water put out by the utility
  • Help detect water leaks in the system

What types of water meters are there?

There are three main types of water meters: positive displacement meters, velocity meters, and compound meters (a combination of a positive displacement meter and a velocity meter).

Positive Displacement Meters

Positive displacement meters work by filling a small compartment of known volume with water. A flow rate is calculated by counting the number of times the compartment(s) is/are filled and emptied.

Velocity Meters

Velocity meters calculate water usage by measuring the velocity of water passed through a section to calculate water flow and volume.  Velocity meters are great for determining water usage in large water usage applications.

Compound Meters

Compound meters are both a positive displacement meter and velocity meter that can calculate high and low water flows.

Where are water meters installed?

Water meters are generally either installed in outdoor meter pits or wells, or inside the building being served.

What considerations are made before installing a meter?

  • Meters should be installed where there is easy access for the meter to be read and maintained
  • In extreme cold weather, meters are sometimes placed indoors (like a basement) to prevent damage
  • Large meters are often put inside a building or vault
  • Meters in pits or wells must be installed with 12″ of gravel for drainage purposes
  • Large meters may require the use of a sump pump
  • Special considerations need to be taken if in a flood-prone area

What considerations are made when selecting a meter?

Flow rate, pipe size, pressure loss, and safety are all taken into consideration when determining what type of meter to install.

Generally, low flow operations such as residential properties have a positive displacement meter.  Medium flow operations, such as apartment complexes and small businesses also use a form of a positive displacement meter. Velocity meters are most commonly used for large operations with large water flows.

What is the cost of a residential water meter?

Water meters vary by region, but the average cost of a residential water meter installation is $280.  The price breakdown includes $40 for the meter, $90 to set the tandem meter setter to the regulator, $40 for the pressure regulator, and $60 for the meter pit/vault.  The life expectancy of a meter is 15 years, so it costs about $1.50 per customer per month to recoup the upfront investment.

Though these questions and answers are vague and vary by region, it’s a good indicator of the value of these systems and the investment made to keep our water flowing and billing accurate.

Local governments and special utility districts that bill customers for water, sewer, garbage, etc., know how important it is to provide accurate, timely service. The continuous cycle of billing for these utilities is a great fit for the automation that Black Mountain’s Utility Billing Software provides. To find out more about how Black Mountain Software’s utility billing software solutions can help your district or utility, contact us today.

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