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Water metering

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Water metering is a method, including its associated equipment, that helps users to account for water consumption rates that are often coupled to pricing charges per unit consumed. Water metering is a component of public water resource management aimed at monitoring and eventually reducing water consumption. It is common practice in many countries with well-established public water utilities, where meters are installed to measure consumption rates in the majority of households and buildings. The customer then pays for the amount of water consumed at recurring rates (e.g. quarterly, monthly). It is also possible to use meters that are not coupled to pricing charges in rural settings, for example at communal wells, to monitor extraction rates, although this is less widespread. Water metering can additionally be used to detect and pinpoint leakages in the system (water produced compared to water metered at the end point), and provides information to utilities about consumer behaviour that can be used in water conservation campaigns.


Water meters are generally installed at end use points, for example in every household or commercial building. The meters detect and display the amount of water flow in cubic litres or gallons. This data is both displayed to the user and collected by the utilities. Traditional meters mechanically detect and display use with a rotating dial in the device, while modern meters, such as ultrasonic meters, are often static and bound to remote readers, and have very high accuracy. Water utilities use the metered data to charge the consumer per unit of water consumed over a certain time period. Meters generally lose sensitivity with time (especially mechanical meters), so once established, routine check-ups are required and new meters installed, when necessary. Water meters are typically installed and maintained by water utilities as part of a service provision contract, though in some areas there may be local regulations requiring meters to be set up and maintained in buildings.

Environmental Benefits

- Improves demand management and water conservation, which can help reduce water withdrawals and
consequently the required amount of energy for extraction and water conveyance.

Socioeconomic Benefits

- Reduces private water costs through improved demand management and water conservation.
- Provides information about consumption trends, which can be used to target users in water
conservation campaigns.
- Helps utilities locate and fix leakages in the system, minimizing water loss.
- Allows for more targeted pricing, subsidizing water for the poor and increasing billing rates for largescale

Opportunities and Barriers


- Water accounting promotes use efficiency and can reduce costs and energy requirements
simultaneously, improving climate resilience
- Water accounting raises conservation awareness amongst consumers, helping to change user


- Initial investments can be high and meter installation may require altering and rebuilding
existing infrastructure
- Precise and system-wide accounting requires meters to be installed and functioning at a
majority of user points. It is often easier to establish in developed areas with a well-established
public water supply network
- Meters lose accuracy with time, requiring routine maintenance
- Meters can be damaged and lose accuracy in areas with intermittent water supply due to
sudden changes in pressure

Implementation considerations*

Technological maturity: 4-5
Initial investment: 3-4
Operational costs: 2-3
Implementation timeframe: 2-3

* This adaptation technology brief includes a general assessment of four dimensions relating to implementation of the
technology. It represents an indicative assessment scale of 1-5 as follows:
Technological maturity: 1 - in early stages of research and development, to 5 – fully mature and widely used
Initial investment: 1 – very low cost, to 5 – very high cost investment needed to implement technology
Operational costs: 1 – very low/no cost, to 5 – very high costs of operation and maintenance
Implementation timeframe: 1 – very quick to implement and reach desired capacity, to 5 – significant time investments needed
to establish and/or reach full capacity
This assessment is to be used as an indication only and is to be seen as relative to the other technologies included in this guide.
More specific costs and timelines are to be identified as relevant for the specific technology and geography.

Sources and further information

UNEP-DHI Partnership: Water metering

Alliance for Water Efficiency (2016). Metering Introduction. NFP. Available at:
Kamstrup (2016). Water metering. Available at:…
NSW (2013). NSW metering implementation plan under the National Framework for Non-Urban Water Metering. New South Wales Government, Department of Primary Industries, Office of Water. Available at:…
Pacific Institute (2014). Metering in California. Available at:
Texas Instruments (2014). Water Meter Implementation with MSP430FR4xx User's Guide. Texas Instruments Incorporated. Available at:
Water New Zealand (2011). Water Metering. Available at:…
Wikipedia (2016). Water Metering. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Available at: