Water Usage & Creative City Accounting

Thread Starter

geekknot

Joined Aug 5, 2016
9
Would like to thank respondents in advance; I always learn here. With forums help I've stepped up from ignorant to dangerous, thank you. Problem- I am on City provided water, plans to drill well for AG usage. For now, I watch the meter closely to spot costly water leaks, excessive usage or waste. My city service 'bills' in 3,000 gallon increments, electronically read consistently on the 15th. Our water is not expensive per gallon, unless I use 3,010 gallons. Then my bill includes next increment and 'bill' doubles. 1st world issue but still, I bought the water, they keep it and sell it to me again, starting on the 16th.
IF I HAD A WAY TO: Tap into meter frequency, to read and send me notice on phone of incremental increase...An App...A flashing light on a pole at driveway by meter...I do not know what might be easiest, simple legal electronic solution. Right now I read it on the 10th and estimate. Additionally, A water pipe break in a field or paddock while out of town could be acknowledged and stopped by phone call to friend.
30 acre Property is AG related, if I could retain the gallons purchased in storage vessel I could use for other purposes. Would prevent expenditures elsewhere to generate cheap water. (ie: well, pump from creek to storage ect.) $$ and issues with these other solutions. Factoring these issues makes the city, ''pre-treated'' water even less expensive. Still hate to give it away...

Again thank you for pointing the way,
Scott @OMG Farm
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,933
Sorry, I don't know how to read a meter like that. I would IMAGINE that the meter doesn't sit there and transmit until it receives a signal. OR possibly it has a timer that on a certain date at a certain time it automatically transmits its data.

Does your meter have an analog readout on it? The needle and wheels or a numeric display with a needle to read out the least units? You may just have to go out there and read the meter manually to know when you're getting close to buying the next 3K gallons.

My city sells me 6K at a time. In the winter we only use around 3K a month but pay for the extra water. In summer time when watering lawns and taking more showers, we typically can use 10K. But the excess I've paid for is forever lost to me. Yes, like you, I, too, have to pay for water I don't use. That sucks.

I've thought about a holding tank, but 3K of unused water every month for the winter months would add up to a whole lot of storage. And within a year's cycle, I don't think I'd use all that water anyway. Fortunately our water prices are not very high. Can't say what they are off hand, but I think we're spending around $50 a month on average.

The best you can hope for is to know when you're about to use that 10 gallons over the 3K mark and just stop using water all together. But I suspect you're going to have to read the analog meter visually.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,933
Additional thoughts: If your faucets do not have flow restrictors or your shower head is not a "Low Flow" type, consider changing them. Especially if every month you're just a few gallons over the 3K mark.

Recently I stayed at a hotel with an ultra low flush toilet. My toilets comply with the mandated low water usage requirements, but this particular toilet takes it to another level. It is probably way more expensive than the units I have now, but oh well.

I also have an RO (Reverse Osmosis) drinking water system. They are notorious for wasting water. I've replaced the control valve with a permeate pump that raises the pressure and reduces the amount of water flushed down the drain. The flushed water is there to carry away the junk filtered out.
 

Alec_t

Joined Sep 17, 2013
11,552
Would it be permissible/practical/economic to install your own meter, near where your service pipe enters your property, if that were more convenient than trying to use the official meter?
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,933
I once shared water service on a duplex. My neighbor kept complaining about me using more water than he did. There was only one meter at the street so the property owner installed a meter on my line after the service split to the two residences. (the property was at one time a single residency)

The meter was a used meter he got from his work. He thoroughly cleaned it and installed it. Then you could take the main meter and subtract my meter and know how much each unit was using. It was a pain in the butt. But it settled the argument of who used more water.

The problem with that meter is that it wasn't accurate. And sometimes the gears would hang up. I knew when it hung up because my water flow dropped to nearly zero. I moved.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,785
Some cities seem to monitor the water flow constantly. I did get a notification of constant water flow at a property that I was working on, the notification said it started at 3AM. Indeed it had, and the next day I switched it off.
A simple and less expensive way to watch for water flow is to use a pressure switch to detect the pressure drop across either a valve or just a long section of piping. With no flow there is no pressure drop, but when water flows there is always some pressure drop, and a sensitive differential pressure switch can detect that and close the contacts. And the arrangement does not need to interfere with the existing plumbing.
 

Thread Starter

geekknot

Joined Aug 5, 2016
9
Would it be permissible/practical/economic to install your own meter, near where your service pipe enters your property, if that were more convenient than trying to use the official meter?
An official ''City'' type meter is expensive and not available to citizens locally, but Great simple idea; If I had any accurate meter I could modify it to send me signal or notice. I tried to get meter from city as we ran water lines up to barn area to verify usage there, they wouldnt sell one. We currently have 1300 feet of 1 inch lines & 20 hose connections.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,785
An alternative is one of the large variety of industrial flow totalizing meters that are available, and sometimes available as surplus. They could be much cheaper, and probably more useful because of having better resolution. And they might even be resettable.
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
7,857
Don't know where you live and what they do, but here ANY messing with the meter gets you charged the highest amount the property ever used and a fine.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,785
Don't know where you live and what they do, but here ANY messing with the meter gets you charged the highest amount the property ever used and a fine.
Short: ALL of this conversation has been about things done DOWNSTREAM of the official water meter. EVERY single remark and suggestion!!! So where did you get any other ideas?? Adding one's own meter is totally OK since it is in the line DOWNSTREAM from the billing meter. Please be more careful about understanding what is being discussed.

Using one's own meter to keep track of water use is a bit more work, but the results may be worth the effort and expense.
 
I'm sure you can buy water meters.

Know your demarcation point. Ours is the street shut off accessible with 5 sided socket. The water meter is 30' away. We had a leak at the valve just before the water meter. That's our responsibility. You could borrow the tool for a deposit. We did.
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
7,857
IF I HAD A WAY TO: Tap into meter frequency, to read and send me notice on phone of incremental increase...
Short: ALL of this conversation has been about things done DOWNSTREAM of the official water meter. EVERY single remark and suggestion!!! So where did you get any other ideas??
Could it have been from the first post?
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,785
OK, now here is a concept, a bit different but delivering similar results: A webcam watching the display of the water meter. With a suitable lens the meter face could be read full screen on any web-connected device. It would not be private, but without any context a water meter display is not very revealing. AND it is an interesting option.
 

alfybill

Joined Aug 20, 2019
1
Hunterindustries.com sells good water meters that monitor irrigation as part of their sprinkler systems. Simple pulse type with x pulses per gallon. You could add in your line somewhere on your side of the official meter (before any branches, of course). I use one to monitor my sprinkler system for excessive use when I am not around.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,933
I'm sure you can buy water meters.

Know your demarcation point. Ours is the street shut off accessible with 5 sided socket. The water meter is 30' away. We had a leak at the valve just before the water meter. That's our responsibility. You could borrow the tool for a deposit. We did.
Here in Utah, and I think every other state I've lived in, I own everything from the meter to my residence. The water company owns the valve and meter. Beyond the meter is my responsibility.

I too have noticed the majority of comments have been about putting something on the line AFTER the meter. My initial take from the original post (#1) was the user wants to be able to read the signal sent from the city meter. I think EVERYONE should be allowed to intercept and decode that reading. Water companies seem to not want to allow that level of access to their meters. Maybe because someone could hack the signal and cause a false reading and thus be billed less than the actual usage. But that's a guess on my part.

Yeah, if I could digitally read my meter - I'd do it just to be sure I'm getting the right billing. But downstream metering may be your best option. Not sure how much the user wants to spend on this.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,785
Here in Utah, and I think every other state I've lived in, I own everything from the meter to my residence. The water company owns the valve and meter. Beyond the meter is my responsibility.

I too have noticed the majority of comments have been about putting something on the line AFTER the meter. My initial take from the original post (#1) was the user wants to be able to read the signal sent from the city meter. I think EVERYONE should be allowed to intercept and decode that reading. Water companies seem to not want to allow that level of access to their meters. Maybe because someone could hack the signal and cause a false reading and thus be billed less than the actual usage. But that's a guess on my part.

Yeah, if I could digitally read my meter - I'd do it just to be sure I'm getting the right billing. But downstream metering may be your best option. Not sure how much the user wants to spend on this.
In my city we have both an external digital display of the meter reading and an integral analog display in the form of a number of "clock" sections, with a revolving pointer, to see what the usage is. And evidently there is some telemetry from the outside display, since the meter reader person just gets close to it and collects the data. I am not sure where the power comes from, there is no power connection, just a cable from the mechanical part to the display module. So tapping in may disrupt the signal, since it must be very low power.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,933
@MisterBill2 I believe all meters have a physical readout on the face. Whether it's mechanical or digital (LCD), all meters should have a second way to read the numbers. With the digital display types they may have a battery. Since LCD uses power when switching the numbers, maintaining a certain number should draw very very ultra low current. I put it that way because I don't know for sure how much current. But I had digital pump stroke counters that sat on my workbench for five years and they still worked, despite displaying a number at all times.

I also don't think the TS wanted to tap into the circuitry of the city water meter. Likely he'd be fined for doing so. I got the impression he wants to be able to read the signal the same as the water company does. Via radio telemetry.

I'd also suspect that the water company gets battery data during the reading. When the battery starts to show a low power (of some pre-determined level) the water company may know it's time to change the battery in their meters. OR maybe they automatically change them every set period of time, be it annually or maybe every 3 years. Maybe someone has come up with a clever way of generating battery power using the meter as a turbine generator, and thus keep their meters charged. Again - I don't know.
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
7,857
After thinking about this, another thing for the TS to consider is how will he keep track of the last months usage compared to the new month? The meters don't "reset" to zero every month. Then there is the "radio" signal from the meter, each meter would need to have it's own "channel" to keep the billing confined to the one meter.

Or if you have the right brand of meter you can just buy a remote reader - https://help.ekmmetering.com/support/solutions/articles/6000067387-can-i-read-my-water-meter-remotely- I stopped looking after finding this one, so there may be others for other brand meters.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,933
@shortbus each meter can have the same frequency. The reading is taken by proximity Each report can have the number of gallons used and the serial number of the meter - which is then correlated to your account and not mine.

OR they may be connected via cell tower data. Truth is - I don't know how they do it. It's probably a fairly closely guarded secret. Not intended for general population. But there's probably more information out there than I can imagine.
 
Top