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.
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.
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.
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.
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.