Water Meter Installation in Your society – Process, Installation and Cost

Water Meter Installation in gated community

We’ve all been guilty of wasting water in our lifetime. If numbers are to be believed, one person wastes from 0 to 45 litres per day. 

Celebrating Holi with water to the tune of Bollywood songs, indulging in song and dance performances in the running shower, washing already washed fruits, vegetables, utensils over and over again under high tap flow, ignoring leaky faucets for months on end – the ways in which we waste water are many. 

Those waking up to their own unconscious programmed habits are insisting on self-discipline and applying all water conservation practices known to them.  But everyone’s not there yet…for them, there is the water meter. 

It is an ingenious solution to measure how much water is consumed by a household so that each home is billed according to water usage, ultimately helping residential societies avoid water wastage.

Types of residential water meters

As per norms prevalent in India, water meters up to 50 mm are classified as domestic water meters for apartments and those higher than that are considered bulk water meters that could have a business or industrial applications.

1. Mechanical Water Meters

PD meters work on the principle of Positive Displacement and use either an oscillating piston or a nutating disc to measure the exact volume of water with each revolution (finite incremental amount). They can measure intermittent flow, low or high viscosity and are highly accurate. Their size is between ⅝ and 2 inches in diameter while their make could be stainless steel, brass or high impact plastic.

Velocity meters (internal capacity meters) measure the volume of water based on the speed of the flow and are categorised as single/multi-jet (port/s surrounding a chamber to form jet/s against an impeller) turbine (master meters for high flow/low viscosity) and compound meters (combination design for high and low flows).
Other common meters are mag meters (electromagnetic flowmeters) and ultrasonic meters.

2. Smart Water Meter

An advanced metering device, a smart meter uses wireless technology for real-time water usage data, reading of which is available 24/7.

Users can find out water consumption of individual activities like cooking, bathing, laundry and conserve water accordingly. They also have leak detection technology to sound an alarm if there’s an overflow in any outlets.

Currently, companies are fitting mechanical meters with smart radio tech but there’s a shift in the future where ultrasonic meters will be used. A Frost and Sullivan study reveals that the smart water market in India is slated to grow by 14.7% from 2019 to 2025. 

The projection is likely to be aided by the Government’s mission to create 4000 smart cities after the success of the first 100. Pune, Chandigarh and Hyderabad authorities are already installing smart water meters to curb the physical loss of water from the source to households (Non-Revenue Water) for which no money is generated.

Why societies should use water meters

1. Track water wastage

It’s a common practice among households to waste water while using it, e.g people leaving the tap on while brushing teeth or leaving the flush on for too long (using 18 litres per flush). After installing a water meter, a society can compare the consumption of families (grouping together households with the same number of occupants) and when a significant variation is found among two or more homes with the same number of members, it means that the families with the highest consumption are clearly using more water than necessary. 

2. Pay-per-use fairness

Flat billing is unacceptable these days. A single man in a 1bhk doesn’t use as much water as a family of four living in a 2bhk yet he pays for what others waste. Even when the MC tries to charge households per number of people, there are always variations in usage (some families always have many guests while some are often on extended out of town trips). A leaky tap left unchecked in error by an otherwise conscientious user can also increase wastage by gallons.

There is enormous bias and exploitation in society’s water bills, where someone always ends up paying more than his share, which creates regular fights and conflicts. Water meter helps you divide the full expense of water tankers fairly with a predetermined amount per gallon that the users pay as per the meter reading.

3. Save money on water tankers

It’s an irrefutable fact that water tanker costs would decrease for any society consciously using water with the help of metering. Societies in Bangalore reported 30% to 50% reduction in water consumption, leading to savings in water tanker expenditure after installing smart water meters.

Even though mechanical meters are most common for urban settlements, they’re not advanced. Actual water consumption is received on a monthly basis as opposed to a smart meter.

Smart meters have Automatic Meter Reading (one-way) or lately Advanced Metering Infrastructure (two-way communication between utility and customer) which eliminate the need for monthly manual readings. 

With smart meters, wastage can be reduced in real-time as the users will receive app notification in case of water leakage.

Why societies hesitate to install water meters

There is a lot of hesitation around plumbing charges and inconvenience caused thereof. Apartment piping is not always conducive to cut and paste meter installation due to complex/multiple connections from the main. Additionally, collecting individual‘s manual readings is an extra responsibility for committee members, though subsequent calculation since collecting a flat rate per month is easier. Possibly, some societies are not even aware of the existence of water meters. Those who are aware are still not willing to spend a lump sum amount on water meter installation because they’ve not properly understood its value and long term benefits.

Water meter installation process

The water meter is installed in an accessible place between the main to the individual supply valve on the inlet pipe or as close as possible to the point of extraction. There should be at least a 30cm space around each water meter for access. Before installation, there must be a filter/strainer fixed to trap sediment, particles and dirt. An undisturbed pipe (10x the diameter of pipe) to be installed upstream and (5x the diameter of pipe) downstream of the meter. 

For example, for a 20mm water meter on a 20mm pipe, there should be 200mm pipe before and 100mm after. Undisturbed pipe means a straight pipe without valves or penetrations like T pieces, elbows and joints.

Replumbing the pipes into one single inlet pipe may be required if there are multiple inlets from the water main leading to one flat or if ducts are too narrow. In most cases, one water meter per apartment is feasible if there’s no extra plumbing needed. In cases where it’s too expensive to undertake massive plumbing operations and laying new pipelines, residents prefer to install multiple smart water meters which are a more affordable cut and paste operation. End connections for meters under 50mm are threaded ends with nipples. The lifespan of a mechanical meter is 5 years.

The process should be done by a licensed plumber or a credentialled agency providing full-service installation so that it’s done correctly the first time. 
Mechanical meters are available for as low as Rs 2000 per unit up to Rs 8000. Smart water meters start at Rs 7500 and upwards.

Water meter installation cost

Let’s assume you picked a mid-range water meter of considerably good quality for Rs 5000 (per unit) for a 50 unit apartment complex. That’s Rs 2,50,000. Add in Rs 5000 (approximately) per apartment for installation and materials. That’s another 2,50,000. Now let’s assume that you pay Rs 2000 per month for water tankers. After meter installation, your contribution was reduced to Rs 1000 based on low usage. For a one-time investment of Rs 10,000, you’re getting a good enough ROI over five years. Even those who end up paying more than usual in the first few months because of their wasteful ways, would end up conserving water because of the fear of being blacklisted. 

With a little more investment, residential buildings can opt for smart water meters and get the added benefit of AMI readings that give detailed analysis on water usage without the pain of physical reading and readymade automated billing.


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