UNBS Responds to Market Needs through the Water Meters Rules

By Alozious Ssemakula

Does your water bill indicate an abnormal water consumption? The amount might not be pleasant to pay, but count yourself lucky you have a water meter, because without it you would not easily monitor consumption or determine the existence of a leak. A significant increase or decrease in a water bill over the same time period is either a result of a noticeable change in consumption or an indication of inaccuracies in water metering.  If a water meter continues to record data even when the water is turned off that is proof of a leakage somewhere.  The United Nations suggests that each person needs 20 to 50 litres of water a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

Water meters are indispensable for knowing how much water is distributed and where it goes. They are used to measure water entering a water supply system, whether from raw water sources, water treatment plants or bulk water suppliers. Meters in the distribution network measure where the water is transported to, and finally, consumer meters are used to measure how much water is delivered to each metered consumer in the system. Water authorities install water meters in order to charge customers for this valuable natural resource and to manage water consumption effectively.

In Uganda, water authorities are appointed under the Water Act CAP 152 to provide water supply services for domestic, stock, horticultural, industrial, commercial, recreational, environmental and other beneficial uses as is required by the declaration establishing the authority or the performance contract. The respective water authorities are National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), Regional Umbrella Organizations (as Regional Utilities and Local Governments being urban centres like town councils, sub-counties and rural growth centres (RGCs).

The Weights and Measure Act CAP 103 provides for promotion and enforcement of fair trade practices. UNBS through the Legal Metrology Department has the responsibility for administering this law and is currently developing Water Meters Rules which will lay out the legal controls on metrological behavior of water meters, the attendant supervision and the consequences of breach. These rules shall apply to all water meter types used for trade of cold potable water and hot water.

The Regulation proposes the following;

  • All new water meters shall be subjected to pattern approval and initial verification tests under controlled conditions in highly accurate testing laboratories before installation.
  • All in-service water meters shall be subjected to periodical insitu verification to ascertain that their performance is still to the intended standard.

Benefits of the Regulation;

  • Providing assurance of measurement accuracy to the public for the water meters through their metrological control.
  • Helping water authorities to reduce Non-revenue water (NRW) resulting from water meter inaccuracies and poor water meter management by assessing meters’ performance.

In conclusion, the Rules will help UNBS to embark on activities for metrological assurance of water metering equipment and systems to protect citizens against unfair bills based on false measurements and for correct quantification of the water consumption for national resource monitoring.

The writer is a Legal Metrologist at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards