Stuck Water Meter

Page 1 of 2  
We got a letter from the town water department indicating that their last meter reading showed zero usage and unless we were out of town or something the meter is probably stuck and needs replacing. I looked at it while water was running and indeed it's not moving. I gave them a call.
They won't be out to change it before the end of the week. I'm inclined to think that we have lucked out and can run all the water we want, unmetered, during these scorching hot days. They didn't say but I would suppose they'd send a bill reflecting average usage. But is that true?
Here is the meter:
http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg89/melrose_fun/misc/watermeter.jpg
I think it was made by Rockwell and the main unit might be original to the house (1957) while the upper part with remote reading to a thing on the exterior of the house was added maybe 15-20 years ago.
It's definitely not moving. Are they going to get this back to the shop, dismantle it, and be able to get a reading off the little gears or is it really totally stuck in which case the usage will never be known?
I'm assuming a small residential meter like this is positive displacement. If that part were realy stuck wouldn't water flow stop?
Free water for a week or it's going to come back to bite me?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It's their defected product. They eat the cost for their failure to upkeep their product.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 7/7/2012 5:04 PM, Chet Kincaid wrote: ...

Local option; if water is at all expensive or particularly if there's rationing now or in the foreseeable future I'd surely not expect a free pass, no. If, otoh, it's a locale w/o much concern over local water supply and cost, they may.
But, would your first thought be try to game the system other than because maybe can? :(
--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Who is gaming the system? When there is a legitimate and desirable but not required use for a product, it is rational behavior to use more of it if it's free or unmeasured. Elasticity of demand and all that.
No one is talking about wasting water down the drain just because we can. We're in part of the country that has been scorching hot the last few days. I'm inclined to water the lawn and garden more if it's unmetered; that's all. It's a legitimate use for water and only natural to use it more of it if it will not be reflected on the bill.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

This may well be a nicely constructed troll, with pictures included, but I'll bite anyway.
Listen to yourself. Have you actually convinced yourself that you are not trying to game the system?
If watering your lawn is what you would consider a legitimate use for water, then you should water your lawn just as much when you are paying for it as when you're not.
*Someone* will pay for it eventually. As small an unmetered amount as you might use during this period still has to be accounted for in the water district's budget. I doubt your water district is a profit making entity, so somewhere along the way, the cost of your free water has to be dealt with.
If you feel that it's "only natural" to use more water when it's not being tracked, then you must feel that it's "only natural" to rip off those who will eventually pay for it - including yourself - if they spread the cost around via higher rates to account for the losses. No, I'm not saying that your free month will cause an increase in and of itself, but it will result in lower revenues that will have to be factored in come budget time.
Using more water when you don't think you'll have to pay for is gaming the system in no uncertain terms. If you didn't think it was, you wouldn't be bragging - err, I mean 'asking' - about it in this group.
Feel free to try to convince yourself that it's not, but don't waste your arguments on me.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It is for us. We do water our lawn when it hasn't rained in a while. Our town has had no water shortages so that's not an issue at all. Will I water it more if it costs me nothing. Of course. I can't say flat out that everyone would because many are too lazy or don't care regardless of whether water was always unmetered. But in general, people tend to use more of something if it's unmetered. Does that make them criminals? No, it's a natural behavior.
Many single family homes in Chicago, for example, are flat rate / unmetered. I don't know what stats they have but it's reasonable to assume that the unmetered homes (all things being equal--number of occupants, interest in gardening, interest in keeping the car clean etc.) would use more water. That's a primary reason to install meters.

Trivial. You don't know much about water service. They probably lose more on water main breaks (the ones that are large enough to be noticed and get repaired) and ongoing leakage (the kind that is not detectable) in a day than I could hope to use in a year. Thus no one is going to pay higher water rates. Unaccounted for water from leaks, firefighting, stuck meters, etc. is a natural part of the business.

"Rip off" suggests a crime is being committed. That is not true. I am a paying customer of the water system. Through no fault of my own I have been switched for one week from metered service to unmetered, flat rate pricing (assuming they will send an average bill, not a zero one). As a customer, I respond to rate changes. If they raise prices significantly I would cut my use of the product. If they lower prices significantly, or, in this case, switch to flat rate pricing for a period, I may freely choose to consume more.
If the electric rate triples I would be more careful in my electricity use. If it dropped a lot, while I cannot think of an electric equivalent of watering the lawn, I might be less careful about turning things off. None of that is gaming the system. It's normal customer behavior.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The issue is that the water company is not making an offer of free, unmetered water. You are deliberately taking advantage of a mechanical failure of their equipment. If you came across a vending machine that was clearly malfunctioning and you could take all the contents without paying, is that right or is it theft?

Which they have done in your town, so what happens in Chicago is irrelevant.

While that extra water is small in the grand scheme of things, it is still measurable. The system pumps do use electricity and it costs to filter, add chlorine, etc. Some places actually pay to buy at least some of their water from other water companies.
That argument reminds me of a friend in college who thought it was perfectly OK to steal phones from the phone company, using similar logic, because the cost of one phone was negligible.

Also, before concluding that deliberately using extra water is not a crime, I'd suggest you read your states laws. I would not be surprised to find something there that could cover it.
I am a

The point that escapes you is that the utility did not make a rate change. This is due to a failure of equipment. Following that logic, if a shopkeeper fails to put a price sticker on an item, or happens to leave a stack of $20's by the cash register, they are free too.

Keep spinning, but Derby is right. It is clearly gaming the system and it also just might be illegal.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

No, but that's a very poor analogy and I've tried to figure out ways to make it work but I can't. Vending machine contents have a non-trivial cost, are always counted (measured) and I presume do not have huge distribution losses. 10% loss in municipal water systems is typical is what I saw on some web site.
(It's hard to not let reality intrude on your scenario. Let's say your hypothetical vending machine is at an unattended highway rest stop. As I did notify them I suppose they might have asked me to unplug it.)
I can only make the analogy work if I think of soda cans, candy bars, and packages of pretzels flying along conveyors at a rate of thousands per minute with 10% falling off the conveyors here and there in ways the vendor has decided are too much trouble to repair. I myself would normally be consuming them at a rate of many dozens a day. Under that scenario, if the counting machine was not working and I could put a bit more to good use without cost, yes, maybe I would.
But like I said, it's a rather poor analogy. The only ones that work are basically the same situation but with a different commodity. Your gas meter is stuck; it won't be repaired for a week. Do you turn on the pool heater to make the water more comfortable when you normally don't? A good analogy but it mimics the situation so closely that nothing is learned from it.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

No, that's not applicable at all. The utility is aware; in fact they notified us, in writing, no less, that this was very likely happening. The fact that they didn't go to the trouble of sending someone out either right after they got their zero reading or at least when I called to confirm that, no, we had not been away, suggests their consent to leave the malfunction in place for over a week total.
The clear intention of that part of Cali law is when there is an ILLEGAL by-passing or rigging of metering equipment that someone takes knowing advantage of even though they themselves didn't do it. An attempt to apply it to someone taking advantage of a utility equipment malfunction known by the utility--I think that would get laughed out of court. Sort of like the person who moves into a new apartment and discovers they have working cable tv.
Even if extra usage could be proved (which apparently it cannot), a successful prosecution would need to prove that such extra use stemmed from the malfunction not my choice to respond to the extreme heat we have had lately. This discussion aside, they'd not be able to prove that.
And I can say truthfully, if it wasn't for the heat, I would not have bothered with the labor involved, free water or not. I've not washed my car for "free"; I'm too lazy.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I suggested that you not try to convince me with your arguments but since you tried anyway, I'll respond this once.
Even though many parts of your argument don't hold water, the bottom line is this:
You are supposed to pay for your water usage by the gallon. Your meter is not recording your usage, so you are planning to use more.
Review this definition of "gaming the system":
"To abuse a system without technically breaking its rules so as to get an advantageous result that isnt deserved."
Therefore, you are gaming the system by changing your habits to get more water for no additional cost, something you don't deserve.
I never said it wasn't normal customer behavior, I said it was gaming the system.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 07 Jul 2012 18:10:35 -0500, Chet Kincaid

I agree it is not "gaming the system", but watering the lawn is usually a huge waste just to make something look green. Watering vegetable plants or a hanging basket of flowers makes some sense.
Many areas have water restrictions in place. Check to be sure you have none or you can get a fine for watering. You want to be sure fire fighters have plenty if needed too and not a trickle because everyone is making dandelions grow better.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ed Pawlowski wrote:

It's a reasonable point which people may debate but it's certainly not unusual for people to water their lawn. Some even have underground systems.
I would be curious if it has declined just because of the poor economy plus restrictions as you mention below in some areas.

Nah...no restrictions here. In fact they just built a new treatment plant a few years ago. They get water from a network of wells and soften it.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 7/8/2012 11:10 AM, Chet Kincaid wrote:

A lot of it is "lets force something to grow unnaturally so we can impress the neighbors". Most grasses know exactly what to do when there is less water available. We have a mix of natural for the area landscaping and a lawn area. We have never watered the lawn and never will.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

a healthy lawn than a lot of weeds.
Oh, gotta remember to turn the irrigation system on for the morning.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That's marvelous but I have no interest in debating the morality of growing grass.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Or of theft, apparently.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm sure they'll put their top ace's on it for a week or two. The experts that they have sitting around, waiting to take apart failed meters to try to figure out the exact amount of water you used for a month. After that, if they still can't somehow extract the amount of usage from that failed meter, they'll send it to the FBI for further forensic analysis.

They probably have surveilance on your house right now just to make sure you don't take advantage of them. I have visions of your whole house, full of all kinds of jugs, pots and pans. I'll bet you're even making sure you flush each time you pee and taking extra showers, aren't you?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

No, but someone with greater knowlege of these meters than I, or you apparently, might know that, say, it's the modified upper part that's failed and that it's very easy to get the figures.
Likely? No. Possible? I don't know; that's why I have asked. To make sure that my initial thought that it's unreadable is true.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 07 Jul 2012 17:04:04 -0500, Chet Kincaid

They may bill you a minimum charge, but with no meter, they can't bill other usage.
No telling how long the meter was stuck. Last reading period you got some free water too as it was not working for some time during the previous billing period. .
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

if they come by and your yard is green beyond reason, they will bill you an outrageous amount for supposed usage
they may do an analysis of previous years usage and show you that the meter has been gradually slowing down and bill you for average use
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.