How water meters saved time and money for this Chennai apartment

A resident of an apartment in Karapakkam on Old Mahabalipuram Road in Chennai shares the community's experience with water meters.

Vaikund Sundaram is an apartment community in Karapakkam on Old Mahabalipuram Road where I have been residing for the past six years. We are dependent on tankers for  water supply and we spend a lot during the summer to buy water every year. We wanted the water usage to be monitored better, share the costs based on the usage and avoid wastage of water. We have found a sustainable way to tackle this issue by the use of water meters.

Water woes

As the city expands its limits, demand for basic amenities like drinking water is increasing day by day. This is especially true for residents of areas like the OMR stretch. Though part of Greater Chennai Corporation limits, we are still dependent on tankers for our water supply as the piped water supply is yet to be commissioned.  

Read more: Why more Chennaiites should have water meters in their home

Tanker water  comes at a relatively higher cost, and also varies based on the season and the demand. In most cases, residents divide the bill equally despite different levels of consumption. This is because most apartments do not measure the quantity of water consumed by each unit separately. The expectation from each resident, however, is that they should pay only for the water that they consume.

This is the reason behind the implementation of the water metering system. Our apartment community has truly reaped the benefits of water meter installation, as it  has helped us assess and manage consumption better.

Why water meters?

At Vaikund Sundaram, we have 40 blocks of various types of dwellings including apartments, duplex houses and individual villas spread across 8 acres.  Each apartment block has 12 units and they have their own water storage sump and overhead tank.  

Vaikund Sundaram apartment complexes in OMR
Vaikund Sundaram is one of many apartment complexes in OMR which is reliant on tanker water. Pic: Gopi Cuttackam

As our ground water source is very limited, we have  to depend on Metro water and private water tankers for our day to day water usage. Each apartment block manages their water needs by ordering water tankers and they share the cost on a monthly basis. When we initially started getting tanker water, we shared the cost of water based on the number of people living in each unit.  However, this brought forth many objections.  In some instances, residents complained that their neighbours had guests at home for some days, or that they had been out of town for some days, so the billing would become contentious.

As the earlier system was causing many unnecessary issues, we set out to find a solution. While examining what our options could be for measuring water use, we came across water meters. Water meters installed for each house would help keep tabs on the quantity of water used by them, much like the working of the EB meters. The costs could then be split according to usage levels, as opposed to being split by the number of residents, as we had been doing until now.

Read more: Chennai will be a water abundant city in five years: Metro Water official

While looking into the types of meters, we settled upon buying a slightly more expensive meter, usually used in industries. This was done with the view that these meters lasted longer and did not need to be replaced as often as regular household meters. The installation process is similar for both types of meters. Once the meters arrived, the plumber installed them along with a filter at the valve leading up to each unit near the overhead tank. 

How have water meters helped?

Once the system was put in place, we were able to track usage for each unit. For my apartment block, I take the readings from the water meter for each house every month. This is then populated in a Google spreadsheet where the monthly water consumption is monitored. I then use a mobile app, Splitwise, to calculate the monthly water charges for each unit by dividing the overall cost in the ratio of each unit’s usage, and also track shared expenses. We share a balance report with the residents via Whatsapp. Most of them make digital payments and I record the same in the app and it maintains the balances accordingly.

When households are able to see how much water is consumed they are able to adjust usage accordingly to bring down their expenses. This has also had the effect of reduction in wastage as residents are more conscious of water used. The meters have also helped ensure that there is a fair distribution of monthly water charges. All these steps have also helped avoid conflicts with the neighbours.

These are just some of the efforts we have undertaken for better, more sustainable living in our apartment community. We do hope that we will be able to make a difference and inspire more communities to take steps towards the same.

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  1. Prabhu says:

    Great article Gopi. This is been followed in developing countries as well

  2. Dinesh Babu K G says:

    I would like to understand how much of water consumption has reduced on average post instalation of water meter. Please share if the info is available.

  3. Amir D says:

    Good job, essential for our chennai city.

  4. Jayaraman VS says:

    Pay for what one actually dread, is the idea behind the installation of water meter. In residential complexes, even if water is regulated due to water scarcity during summer, the installation of water meter would ensure payment according to the quantum one gets. In the normal course, the residents in the lower floor are bound to get more water than those in the upper floors. But still, the upper floor residents are forced to pay the amount that is paid by the lower floor residents even though the former get low quantity of water. The installation of water meter will rectify this imbalance.

  5. Haritha srinivas says:

    Superb ,informative and Useful article Gopi garu . Here i am sharing my experiences at vaikund sundaram apartments . First i want to appreciate block 31 water maintenance. We never faced water issues in 4 years well-organized Secondly i am grateful to the water meter installation idea. Water meter concept was good. We are able to see how much water is consumed monthly and able to adjust usage accordingly to bring down our expenses. We tried our level best in reduction of water wastage by checking the monthly water expenses. We used RO*_Extra waste water as for house cleaning purposes .I personally learned how to save money by saving water consumption and my two children too conscious of water used. Thanks to one and all who implemented water meter idea. Save money for our Children and Save water for our future generations.

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