A Sensus water meter is used throughout Idyllwild Water District. Photo by Steve Erler
A Sensus water meter is used throughout Idyllwild Water District.
Photo by Steve Erler

“I’m asking how this could happen? What can we do?” William Walker asked the Idyllwild Water District directors at the Sept. 10 board meeting. He was told his meter recorded a 500-gallon use on just one day. IWD called him Friday, Aug. 29, when he was in San Diego, alerting him to unusual usage. “Something is wrong. I’m worried something is going on,” he told the board in September.

Walker is one of several IWD customers who believe their water usage and bills are too high for the actual consumption. Steve Holldber, owner of Idyllwild Heating and Cooling, had the same complaint to the board at its August meeting.

While Board President Jim Billman expressed concern over these problems and worried, “Maybe we have a batch of meters breaking down,” General Manager Tom Lynch assured the board that IWD’s meters are fine and working properly.

“There are potential leaks; some are not obvious,” he told the board. “Meters usually are in favor of customers; they run slower as they age.”

When IWD employees came to Walker’s house to investigate, he wrote in his letter to the board, “I was told, ‘It must have been you as everything is fine on [IWD’s] end.’ I informed them that it was not me as I am very cautious about water use.” Walker stressed that when he checked his meter it was not running.

On Monday, Sept. 15, Lynch had a teleconference with Ed Funk, IWD’s account manager with Aqua Metric, who will be at the district’s Oct. 15 meeting, and Bill Boyd, the district manager for Sensus, the manufacturer of IWD’s meters. The Sensus headquarters is in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Boyd stressed that all water meters have to meet standards set by the American Water Works Association. “As they get older, they’re definitely less accurate. As they age, there’s wear on their tolerance,” Boyd said. But he concurred with Lynch that “they record low; they can’t push more water through the meter.”

Idyllwild Water has both non-mechanical and smart meters. Another type of meter, multi-jets, can, on rare occasions, have something jam a jet, which increases the water speed and the meter reading. But Lynch quickly said, “There are no multi-jet meters in our system.”

“These problems almost always occur in the summer when we keep things alive,” Boyd said. “A small drip to the naked eye can be minimal, but over 30 days it can be a lot of water.”

IWD has had a third party test one of the alleged faulty meters. The analysis indicates that it was at least 97.9 percent accurate. When asked if Sensus tests its meters, Boyd replied, “We recommend that third parties do the testing. If we reported it fine, there would always be some doubt.”

When asked if iron or manganese, which occur in water on the Hill, might cause problems for meters, Boyd replied, “Yes, but manganese and iron can only stick a meter. It slows down; it can’t speed up.”

If a customer suspects high consumption, Lynch and Boyd recommend that the resident read the meter before leaving the house for the day and then read it when they return. “If there is any usage, they’ve got a leak,” Boyd stated.

The next IWD meeting is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, and Lynch has invited Funk to attend in case more customers have questions about their water meters.