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Assessment of Commercially Available Flow Meters for Secondary Water Applications in Utah


For many years, the State of Utah has been interested in metering secondary water systems to encourage water use accountability.  Commonly, users of secondary water are charged flat rates with no restraint on volume of use.  The State would like to find a low-cost, commercially available flow meter that is capable of accurately measuring secondary water flow rates to increase consumer accountability, thereby reducing water consumption.  To date, most small low-cost residential and commercial flow meters are mechanically operated, meaning that meter parts can become damaged or stop working all together when debris-laden water is passed through the meter. 

The objective of this project will be to evaluate the acceptability of select commercially available meters that have few or no moving parts and are robustly constructed for potential use in the extreme operating conditions of Utah's secondary water systems.

The project will specifically evaluate commercially available flow meters that have potential as secondary water meters.  Currently, most of the commercially available meters sold in the United States are meant for primary water systems (clean drinking water systems), and are not designed for use in debris laden secondary water systems.  The following tasks are planned for the project:

  1. Complete a preliminary literature review on particulates that are most problematic on existing residential flow meters in the State of Utah.
  2. Meet with individuals of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (CUWCP), who have offered to partially fund this project to review their needs and research objectives.
  3. Obtain “new” candidate flow meters that have potential as secondary water meters in the State of Utah.  (We currently have 30 Severn Trent flow meters, most of which were donated for this evaluation work.)
  4. Test new evaluation meters for accuracy in their new condition using clean water.
  5. Pass particulates through the meters (sand, vegetation, etc.) for extended periods of time.  The selection of the particulates will largely depend upon the results of item 1 in this list.
  6. Perform tests to evaluate the effect of debris and particulates on the meter accuracy.
  7. Create severe environments for the meters, such as freeze/thaw, heat, external submergence, impact damage, etc., to aid in evaluating the durability of the test meters.
  8. Pull meters from a Weber Basin Water conservancy district secondary water system.  These meters were installed two seasons ago as part of a field study to evaluate their durability.  The meters will be brought to the UWRL for accuracy tests to determine if, after operating in a secondary water system for two seasons, their accuracy has been compromised.  They will also be dismantled to evaluate component wear or damage that has occurred as a result of passing debris.
  9. Interview utilities that currently use the evaluation meters to determine ease of installation, service, and reading.
  10. Perform a cost/benefit analysis that illustrates the economic benefits of installing and utilizing secondary water meters.

Accomplishments

The project is just starting; however, 30 Severn Trent flow meters have been obtained, most of which were donated for this evaluation work.


Benefits to the State

Water conservation is an important issue in the State of Utah, as an expanding population creates a greater demand for limited water resources.  By identifying and utilizing low-cost, commercially available flow meters capable of accurately measuring secondary water flow rates, state water resource managers could increase consumer accountability and potentially reduce water consumption.

March 14, 2011