The dreaded WMD (actually a WDM – Water Demand Management System) is here to stay. Many welcome it, others despise it. Whichever way we look at it, physically controlling high water usage is the only way forward. In fact, these devices have been in use since 2006 – initially to assist the indigent. But what do they look like and how do they work?
WHAT IS A WDM?
Simplistically, a WDM is a valve that controls water flow. It allows a pre-set amount of water to flow, and then closes when said amount has been used. The valve opens again at a pre-set time to allow water to flow again -simple. Apart from controlling high water usage, it also prevents water losses due to leaks. In my opinion, its ability to prevent major water leaks is probably its best feature – the media often report on major water losses at private properties, without the occupants being aware of it. A WDM would have prevented that.
WHO SUPPLIES THE WDMs TO THE CITY?
There are currently two suppliers of WDMs – Aqualoc and Utility Systems. Both devices are installed by contracted installers. The main differences between the two are:
- Aqualoc is a one-piece unit which replaces your current water meter. It is a water meter and WDM in one. It is equipped with Automatic Meter reading (AMR), but the City is not using that capability.
- Utility Systems is an electronic valve with LCD panel that gets added to your current pulse water meter (a meter able to send a signal to an electronic measuring device). If you do not have a pulse meter (ie, you have the the old brass one), then a new pulse meter as well as a Utility Systems WDM will be installed. This system is also capable of doing AMR.
Regardless of the brand of the WDM, the contractor will set it at a predetermined amount of liters per day (prior to 1 Feb 2018, this was 350 liters per day – stricter water restrictions may result in this being lowered, but it had not been confirmed by the time of writing this article). This is based on 4 people per household. It will allow you to use those allocated liters a day, then shut off. It will reset again at 04:00 the next morning allowing for the next amount of allocated liters to be used that day. Unused daily allowance will roll over, but the system will reset at the end of the month. At 04:00 on the 1st of every month you will start again and lose any accumulated liters from the previous month. This is to prevent water hoarding, which is NOT the point. It is also important to note that the fact that you have an allocated number of liters per month, does NOT mean you MUST use it all. We should all be conscientious and responsible, and we must try to use less.
Larger households (more than 4 people) can apply for an increase in daily allowance – the forms are available on the City’s Website.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY COMPLAINTS ABOUT THESE DEVICES?
- Installation and maintenance issues: Soil and dirt that enters the system may cause the valve to jam. If the valve jams, the battery, which normally lasts 3 to 5, will work overtime in its efforts to allow the system to try and open/close the valve. The battery will then run flat in a matter of hours or days, causing the WDM to reset to factory settings. This may result in no water at all, until the system is flushed and reconfigured. Dirt can enter the system during installation or when there was a burst pipe in the area. Note, I am not going to speculate on the quality of the work performed by the contractors. That is not the purpose of this post.
- Our own fault: While many of us will remain in denial, quite a lot of perceived problems are self-inflicted. Both devices can be accessed by laptop where usage stats can be retrieved. Some people use their full allocation and then deny it…. “I did NOT leave the door open… I did NOT use that much water….”, while the proof is there for all to see. If there is no leak, then you have used the water.
HOW CAN I ENSURE MY ALLOCATED WATER IS NOT WASTED?
- Open taps are the main reason these devices are perceived to fail. Some people do not know a tap is open, and the allocated water is then wasted as soon as the valve opens at 04:00. By the time the occupants wake up, all their water is gone….
- Furthermore, Some geysers have a 200 or 300 liter capacity. Just to fill that will take almost 80% of your daily allowance. Some top loaders use 190 liters…. etc, etc. Enough said. Regarding geysers, be aware of how much cold water is wasted before the water gets hot. Consider a point of use electric or gas shower head or faucet to reduce water wastage.
HOW DO I READ MY NEW WDM?
- The Utility Systems one is easy to read. You still have your water meter that will record total water usage. The Utility Systems WDM’s LCD screen will tell you how much of your allowance is left.
- The Aqualoc does not indicate daily usage. It only indicates total usage, as many water meters do. It uses analogue dials for this purpose. This system also uses a ‘wet’ reading pane. This means there is water inside the reading pane. This is normal. If the water turns green and you cannot read the meter, open a tap ever so slightly to allow water flow. This should clear the reading pane.
WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE LIVING WITH MY WDM EASIER?
- Frequently check for leaks – any leak on your side of the meter will reduce your daily allowance and cause the valve to close. Remember, not all leaks are visible. Some remain undetected for days and even weeks. Make a point to check for leaks at least once a week.
- Familiarise yourself with the procedure to report WDM problems. Report the problem to COCT, get a reference number and then contact the supplier directly, if required, in an emergency. Both Aqualoc’s and Utility Systems’ support numbers are available on the internet. We may not like it, even deny it, but failure of electronic devices is a reality. If dirt enters the system and causes the device to fail, it is unfortunate, but NOT necessarily the fault of the device. Both devices are NRCS approved, so they are not of bad quality. The approval documents for both have been upload to Files on the FB Group.
- I can hear you asking: “How do we prevent dirt from entering the system?”. This will be an issue to be discussed with COCT – a filter of some sort may have to be installed before the device. However, filters tend to clog, and will have to be maintained and cleaned. So, this is not an easy challenge to resolve.
- Audit your personal water usage – know proactively how much you use. Manage your allocated amount carefully.
Now you know….
Disclaimer: WSWC is not affiliated with any of the two suppliers mentioned above. The info provided was posted in good faith and serves to inform members regarding the WDM devices.