NRDC and water utilities propose new accuracy standards for water meters in U.S.


Tracy Quinn,
NRDC Water
Policy Analyst
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — March 28, 2013 – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in partnership with Austin Water Utility and San Antonio Water System of Texas and American Water, and the support of East Bay Municipal Utility District of California and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, have submitted a proposal to the American Water Works Association (AWWA) to revise national accuracy standards for new water meters.

The aim is to tackle the unnecessary waste of water from low level leaks and improve water system accounting, taking account of advances in the design and performance of water meters.

More than one trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year and 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day, often unbeknownst to homeowners, according to the U.S. EPA’s WaterSense Program. This first-of-its-kind proposal with utility agencies aims to address this issue by ensuring that new water meters are capable of accurately measuring extended low flows, which can be indicative of hidden and excessive leaks.

The proposal is aimed at four of the most common mechanical waters meters in the U.S. market, i.e. C-700, C-710, C-708, and C-712. The proposed revisions comprise the addition of ‘operating characteristics’ data that establishes the leak detection test flow rate for each meter size, a requirement of an accuracy of at least 80 percent for meter registration at leak detection test flows, and information and references on the leak detection flow test procedure.

“Water leaks are incredibly common, often lurking unseen in our homes and businesses and wasting an enormous amount of water,” said Tracy Quinn, NRDC water policy analyst. “We can fix this by ensuring that utilities are supplied with more accurate water meters that can better detect hidden leaks. Stronger accuracy standards will lead to the widespread installation of more accurate meters, and major water savings will follow when homeowners fix leaks identified.”

The minimum flow rates at which meters are required to be tested have not changed since the first AWWA standard for cold water meters was proposed in 1921. Today, a water meter commonly installed in a new single family home is only certified to be accurate for flows down to 1/4 gallon of water per minute. Lower flows, such as those from a dripping faucet, a running toilet, or a leaky irrigation system, may run for days, weeks or months at levels below 1/4 gallon per minute, and not be fully recorded – or recorded at all – by water meters. Consumers can lose 100 gallons a day or more from unrecorded or under-recorded leakage, ultimately resulting in higher bills as utilities seek to recover the cost of these losses through higher and more frequent rate increases.