Notwithstanding the controversy of recent years, the importance of universal metering as a drinking water demand management tool has been highlighted in the rural water sector over many years.

The volume of water that can be wasted or lost through a ½ inch pipe ­ without impacting on pressure or supply to the household ­ is frightening. Consumer meters and bulk meters have allowed GWS management to identify and focus on problematic areas on their networks. Because they have been able to quantify the amount of water pumped versus the amount of water demanded by the end-users, boards of management can target those areas of the network that have excessive water demand and then narrow the water loss down to shorter sections of main and to individual consumer connections.

As a result of installing and effectively managing consumer meters and bulk meters and moving from a fixed rate to usage-based charging systems for their non-domestic consumers, many GWSs have seen significant water demand reductions. Besides making a major contribution to water conservation, such reductions have reduced energy demand from pumping, ensured that treatment facilities work within their design demand and with less sludge disposal, prolonged the life of network infrastructure and improved water pressure to consumers.

‘Step testing’ to determine water loss on a network would never have been possible without the installation of bulk meters and meters on all connections.

Tools required to quantify & monitor water demand on GWS networks include the following:

  • Bulk Meter – leaving the plant to record detailed daily flows and compare day-time to night-time flows.
  • District Meters – on branch lines to allow throughflow into specific zones of the network to be monitored.
  • Loggers ­ to record flow data remotely and transmit it directly to a laptop or smartphone.
  • Alarm System ­ where an alert is received (usually as a text message) when flows exceed a set limit.
  • Universal Meters – on all individual connections, monitoring flow into premises and, were checked regularly, provide early warning of leakage.
  • Sluice Valves – strategically located at regular intervals on a network to allow sections to be isolated and to assist in identifying the location of a leak on the water mains. These should be installed at the head of each branch line of pipework, at each bulk meter and, over time, at intervals of between 1-2kms on the network.

Service pipes

Service pipes from the boundary box should be installed in a trench at least 600mm below ground level (as a protection against extreme cold) and appropriate backfill should be used to prevent any future damage to pipes.


Meter installation guidelines