Secondary Meters

Secondary Meter Analysis

The City of Bloomfield Hills receives requests regarding instituting a policy to permit the installation of secondary water meters. These meters are used to record the volume of water used for outdoor purposes such as irrigation, pool filling, car washing, etc. Residents installing the secondary meter do so for the purpose of saving money on their sewer bill since sewage is billed based on water consumption, and the water theoretically does not enter the sanitary sewer system.

For an individual water user that does not practice conservation or irrigates excessively, this could amount to significant quarterly savings. However, these individual savings are offset by increases to all residents who do not install a secondary meter, are good conservationists, and to the City as a whole. 


Secondary meters will in fact cause sewer rates for all City users to increase. While all users will be paying higher rates, those with secondary meters will be paying on less water usage and therefore may realize a savings. This provides a significant benefit to the users that would be first to install a secondary meter. However, as more and more secondary meters are installed, the savings of the existing secondary meter users will diminish while causing everyone else’s rate to increase for using the same amount of sewer capacity as they always have. In the end, DWSD, OCWRC, and the City will still receive the revenue needed to operate and maintain the system. Secondary meters simply redistribute the cost of doing so to the residents that do not choose to participate in installing a secondary meter. The only way this would make sense from an engineering perspective is if the City were selling the meters. The City could use the revenue generated from meter sales to offset the increased cost to everyone else. However, unless the costs of the secondary meters are substantially higher than the $400-$700 typically charged by the area communities that allow this, this is not feasible.

There are 3 historical political perspectives on this. The first is that the people likely asking for this to be allowed and therefore can take advantage of this type of program are those who are currently driving the water rate increases seen in recent years. For a secondary meter to be an attractive proposition for a resident, they have to assume that the costs of the meter and the installation costs will be paid off by the savings in a reasonable time frame. In other words, if you an over user of the water system, you will save more and pay off the improvement costs in a shorter timeframe. However, it is the over users of the system that are causing system problems talked about in the past. Basically, you will reward those residents that over irrigate their lawns, do not conserve water, and are not good stewards of the water and sewer systems.

Another Perspective

The second perspective is that once people realize the amount of water they use for irrigation and other outdoor uses, they will become better at conserving this resource and the overall City’s use will improve. However, it is our opinion that this is not a conservation issue, rather a pure cost issue. We do not believe that secondary meters will show the user of such the benefits of conservation.

The third perspective is the estimated payback period. Payback period can dramatically differ based on the differential between winter season flows and irrigation season flows. Also, as the City must increase the water and sewer rates as a whole to make up for the shortfalls which may arise based on these secondary meters, the positive benefits will continue to decrease. Therefore, in the long run, there is little financial benefit for individual users supporting the installation of a secondary meter.


Instituting a policy to permit the installation of secondary meters is not supported in the city for the following reasons:
  • It will cause everyone’s sewer rates to increase.
  • It benefits the minority of customers that install the secondary meter first.
  • It benefits high volume users.
  • It simply redistributes costs of sewerage to the customers that do not install a secondary meter.
  • Secondary meters, in our opinion, will not promote conservation within the City.
  • Over users of the water system are rewarded for installing a secondary meter.