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When it comes to paying utilities, the ‘user pays’ system means just that. Unfortunately, this is often not the case for those living in apartments where the water usage cost is usually shared between owners and tenants on a communal basis. In fact, there are about two million apartments across Australia that do not have individual water metering.

Now, thanks to an innovative product that offers a fair and equitable user pays system, residents are finally reaping financial rewards.

Gold Coast-based and family owned, Fair Water Meters offers an affordable solution for apartment dwellers and those in other shared tenancies, including commercial, ensuring users only pay for the water they use.

Fair Water Meters General Manager Mary Terblanche identified the need for this unique system in 2009 when she worked in project marketing, realising many units in Australia did not have sub-meters, which meant residents were being forced to pay ‘shared’ water bills.

Not having these sub meters and having to share water bills, when residents often knew they were using a lot less than what they were paying for, was causing a lot of resentment, anger and disharmony within residential communities and I knew there had to be a better way,” said Mrs Terblanche.

The sophisticated German system overcomes the usual obstacles to retrofit sub-metering and has been used and trusted for decades around the world.

Customised and approved for use in Australia and New Zealand, the first WaterMark certified and pattern-approved meters hit the market on the Gold Coast to much demand. Suitable for individual dwellings in multi-residence complexes, the system measures their specific water consumption – meaning residents only pay for what they use and will no longer split the bill with their neighbours. They are ‘purpose designed’ for easy, cost-effective retrofitting, making them perfect for installation into existing units.

Fair Water Meters offers two options: the ECO Inline Meter created for use on exposed pipework, and the ECO Valve Meter designed for concealed valves or pipework.

The individual meters are installed at the isolator or stop-tap for the apartment or office, whether inside or outside the lot boundary. The modular ECO system ensures there is a solution regardless of the existing plumbing, with no need for expensive wiring or building works.

Each (hot or cold) measuring capsule has an inbuilt radio AMR (automatic meter reading) module for convenient monthly walk or drive-by meter reads. The radiofrequency (RF) system provides optimal safety and reliability, but wired options are available if required. The cartridge-style measuring capsules simply unscrew for recycling so maintenance couldn’t be more simple or economical.

Another powerful benefit of the sub-meters is their industry-first automatic leak detection and alerting capability. This means not only can residents manage water usage, but they can quickly detect leaks and address them, making a healthy contribution not only to their bank balance but also to the environment by reducing unnecessary water consumption.

Fair Water Meters focus on making a positive contribution to sustainability, donating to non-profit environmental organisation, The Ocean Clean-up, with every meter installed.

Every year, millions of pieces of plastic enter the oceans, of which the majority spills out from rivers,” said Fair Water Meters Operations Manager Jacqui Tennent. “A portion of this plastic travels to ocean garbage patches, getting caught in a vortex of circulating currents. If no action is taken, the plastic will increasingly impact our ecosystems, health, and economies. We hope our small contribution can contribute to lasting change.”

A Fair Water Meters pilot study found that the implementation of individual water bills achieved a 33 per cent reduction in water consumption within sub-metered lots (units), and a 51 per cent reduction in total water consumption with the repair of a significant supply leak.

These figures are especially encouraging considering international studies have revealed that the implementation of sub-metering with individual bills typically results in water savings of 15 to 35 per cent. The largest universal metering programme found an average sustained reduction of 22%, with which Fair Water Meters data aligns.

Fair Water Meters not only creates an equitable, userpays water system, but the cost of the meters and their installation is recovered from water cost savings within 12 to 24 months. Further cost savings can be gained from intelligent leak detection preventing water damage to properties, as well as environmental benefits due to lowered water consumption.

Although based on the Gold Coast, Fair Water Meters has expanded into New South Wales and anticipates its first installations into central Sydney will be under way in early 2023.


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