To say South Africa has a water crisis is putting it mildly. Never before has the need to conserve water been made real to so many of us. Whatever the next wet season brings we will always need to do all that we can to save water. Prepaid water meters can help us manage are water usage and so save water and money.

Types of Prepaid Water Meter

Like prepaid electricity meters, prepaid water meters come in a couple of configurations. The most common one at the moment is the sub meter. These are mainly used in multi dwelling properties (cottages, flats and townhouse complexes) and rentals.  The submeters sit “behind” the municipal meter so that the owner still gets a water bill from the municipality (or other water provider). The tenant then buys tokens for their meter. The token includes the cost of units of water and a small administration fee. The fee depends on the supplier and method of purchase. The token supplier then reimburses the property owner for the water used which covers the bill. Prepaid water meters are available at good hardware stores.

As with electricity meters there are also municipal water meters, though so far, very few municipalities have introduced them. In this case the prepaid meter replaces the current water meter and can be used in conjunction with one or more sub meters. The “reimbursement” is then paid directly to the water supplier.

In the most drought stricken areas of the country municipalities are installing water management devices (WMD). These are often part of or work in conjunction with prepaid water meters. They monitor water usage and stop water flow when a predefined limit has been reached. In essence they act like water rationers. A property with a WMD will be allowed to use the set amount (e.g. 350 litres) a day. Once that ration has been used the WMD will stop water flow until the next reset (usually the next morning) at which point the device will allow the next ration through. Unused water is carried over onto the next day’s ration.

How Prepaid Water Meters Can Save Water

As MJ Booysen of Stellenbosch University points out in his article the biggest challenge for those attempting to conserve water is the delay between water usage and the result. That is, you don’t know how much water you have used until weeks or months later when the invoice from the water supplier arrives. At this point you have no idea how or where the water was used or even if the amount is correct.

Thus one of the greatest advantages of prepaid water meters is the accurate, real time monitoring of your water usage. You can see the unit usage on the readout of the device or view online reports depending on your water meter option. It is then much easier to pinpoint specific water usage events and identify how your water is used.

Leaks are also much easier to detect. Most prepaid water meters have leak alarms allowing you to react quickly and keep the water loss from becoming catastrophic, both the area water supply and your household budget. More accurate and timely information means that you can be sure that you are doing your bit by staying within the restrictions on a daily basis.

Saving Money by Saving Water

Fairly obviously, the less water you use, the less water you have to pay for. With the various increases in water tariffs, particularly in Cape Town, this is something to keep in mind. The water you save thanks to  better water management is also money you save. You know that you have gotten the water you have paid for and can figure out where it was used.

Beyond that, if you are a property owner with multiple rentals and a prepaid water meter per dwelling you save money and time in administration. Tenants are responsible for their own usage and can monitor and budget their water usage accordingly. You don’t have to figure out who to charge what for the bill at the end the month. You are also sure that your water bill will be paid. Your tenants are sure they pay only for the water they got and you are sure that their water bill is paid.

To Sum Up

Prepaid water meters help you save water and money by giving you the ability to monitor your water usage accurately and in real time. This allows you to manage your water better, detect leaks and wastage sooner and save more water. Saving water helps you save money and help your community.

Learn more