Dedicated Irrigation Lawn Meters Cut Water Bills

If your water bill is out of control then it’s time to consider a dedicated irrigation meter.

Rising water bills have many Houston area home owners frustrated these days but what a lot of those home owners don’t know is that there are a number of ways to significantly reduce that bill and a dedicated irrigation meter usually makes the biggest impact.

Irrigation accounts for between 50% and 70% of all the water we consume in the U.S. and the money you spend on irrigation water in the summer months can be as high as 90% of your water bill in the Houston market.  There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the consumption such as having an auditor run through your system, installing a rain sensor, upgrading to an ET based controller (waters based on soil moisture rather than a schedule), converting to more efficient watering devices (rotary nozzles on turf and drip emitters in beds) but adding a secondary irrigation meter may be the fastest way to cut that bloated water bill down to size.

Irrigation tends to be about 70% of the average size home’s water consumption.

Your water bill is usually divided into two parts; the water consumption and the sewer or waste water fee.  Water usage is the part of the bill that most home owners think about when looking at the bottom line.  This is how much water you actually used during any given month.  The other half of the water bill is the sewer fee (sometimes called waste water) and this is the fee for the city (water purveyor) processing the water because all of that water goes down the drain and into the city sewer where it must be cared for.  This sewer fee tends to be about 50% of your water bill.

What your city or water purveyor may not be  so quick to tell you is that irrigation water, which is the bulk of your water consumption, does not go back into the sewer to get processed, it goes into the soil.  Because of this, most cities, to include Houston, allow customers to have a secondary dedicated irrigation meter installed which is not subject to the sewer fee.  For many Houston area home owners this could easily mean a $60 to $100 deduction from their water bill during the warmer months.

A secondary dedicated irrigation meter is set right next to your existing meter and can significantly reduce your water bill.

Here’s how it works:  The city will install a second irrigation meter right beside your existing meter, usually in the same box.  It will then be connected to your irrigation system and the city will send you a separate bill each month for that meter.  The water that passes through the irrigation meter will not be charged the sewer fee.  While it is important to understand that this does not reduce your water consumption, it can drastically reduce the amount of your monthly water bill.  It also provides an accurate assessment of how much water your sprinkler system is using on a monthly basis.

It is also very important that you check with your water purveyor before moving forward with a project like this.  Every water purveyor is different and how they credit the waste water or sewer portion of the bill can be very different from purveyor to purveyor.  Some of the outlying areas charge a much smaller fee for waste water which can lead to a much smaller return on your investment.  The cost of this second meter is usually pretty steep.  Most of the Houston area can expect to spend between $1,800.00 and $3,000.00 for a meter like this with most of that money going to the city for permits, the meter itself and the city plumber (note that only a city plumber can install such a meter).  The ROI for most Houston area home owners, that are in their homes long-term, more than justifies this up-front expense and many homeowners see a return in between one and two years.

When you are calling around for quotes it is very important to know what the contractor you are speaking to is quoting.  Most contractors only perform a portion of the work because the entire process requires three licenses to complete (plumber, irrigator and backflow tester/inspector).  One company or contractor may be turn-key and the next may leave the application and purchasing the meter to you.  Others may take care of the plumbing portion but leave the irrigation work to you.  TIS has partnered with COH plumbers to oversee the entire installation and to provide turn-key service.  We fill out all of the necessary paperwork, pull the permits, coordinate the installation and connect the meter to your irrigation system once it has been installed so feel free to give us a call and find out how much you can save by having a dedicated irrigation meter installed.

PG
John A. Taylor is President and CEO of TIS, Inc. in the Houston market. He was awarded the 2013 EPA Partner of the Year Award for his water conservation efforts and he lectures on water conservation through innovative and conscientious irrigation across the country. His company, TIS, focuses on sustainable landscape solutions. John is a veteran of the Unites States Marine Corps and lives with his wife and children in the Houston area.

John has blogged 7 posts here.

28 comments for “Dedicated Irrigation Lawn Meters Cut Water Bills

  1. JoAnn
    May 16, 2014 at 11:34 am

    John,
    Can your pool be hooked to the irrigation meter as well as your sprinkler system?

    JoAnn

    • June 11, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      JoAnn,

      Yes, a pool can be hooked up to the dedicated irrigation/lawn meter. As can water features and hose bibs but I recommend that they be connected after the meter has been installed and the city closes the meter installation project on their end.

      John A. Taylor

  2. Steve
    May 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

    John,

    I know I’m responding to an older article, but am recently new to the Houston area. Is there a method to have a secondary meter hooked up for outside faucets only? The home I purchased does not have a separate irrigation system, and is watered by hose and sprinkler attached directly to faucets. I would assume even if this is possible, it would be more costly than a meter hooked directly to the flow of an irrigation system.

    Thank you in advance

    • June 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Steve,

      I am so sorry for not catching this post earlier. As you mentioned it is an older article but I am more than happy to help. Yes, you can install a dedicated irrigation lawn meter to hook up to a hose bib that is connected to a sprinkler system. You would want to consider two things though; first the city would make sure that whatever system is pieced together (even one connected to a hose bib) is installed up to code. Second, you would want to make sure that you are getting enough water savings to justify the expense of the meter. We like to see more than 25k gallons per month during the warmer months but between 20k and 25k gallons does provide a return as well, it is just slower (three to five years). Last, you will want to keep in mind that while it can be connected to a hose bib it cannot be connected to the existing hose bib, it would have to be a new one installed in that same area. I hope that helps, call or send an email if there is anything else I can do to help.

      John A. Taylor

  3. October 22, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Thank you so much.

  4. Camilla
    October 22, 2012 at 8:26 am

    nice.

  5. Mario
    October 21, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Thanks for all of your efforts over there. I wonder is oneday you could create an article on setting your sprinkler timer. I always seem to have a tough time and everyone I talk to has something different to say. You men always do a nice job and I would apreciate your expertise.

    • October 22, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Mario,

      We will certainly consider that topic for a future article. Check back with us soon. Thanks a bunch.

      John

  6. Rich F.
    October 20, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    How long does something like this take John? Many thanks in advance.

    • October 22, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Rich,

      Haha… this is the million dollar question. Unfortunately the city and the water purveyor tend to move at their own pace. I have seen it go as quick as a few weeks and as long as a few months. The paperwork and permits being processed is the big wait. Additionally, only a city plumber can install the meter so their schedules are often backed up as they can only install a few meters per day.

      John

  7. Anonymous
    October 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Testing

  8. William S.
    October 17, 2012 at 3:05 am

    Is there a city website for this kind of information? Bill

    • October 22, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Bill,

      I am not sure that there is a website, especially on the city sites. Keep in mind that though we pull permits from the city, this is actually offered through the water company which is usually separate from the city.

      John

  9. Rina
    October 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    How would I go about scheduling a visit to my property to get a quote as to how much something like this would cost?

    Rina

    • October 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

      Rina,

      Just give us a call at(832) 799-4657 and we will get you all set up. Estimates are always free.

      John

      • LeAnne
        May 19, 2014 at 12:07 pm

        I saw one of your DIY classes at the nursery last year. Will you be doing any more of those?

        LeAnne

  10. Evelyn Jeanne Shaw
    October 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

  11. Carlos
    October 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    cheers to taylor irrigation services

  12. Ed
    October 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    short, sweet and informative. Outstanding information.

  13. Raymond J.
    October 8, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    What is the water company’s stance on hooking outdoor faucets or pool equipment to these kind of meters?

    • October 22, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Most water companies will allow you to hook a hose bib up to the irrigation meter but some will not. Others will allow a limited number of them (1 or 2). The pool is usually a no-no when it comes to this sort of thing. Best to check with the individual water purveyor.

      John

  14. Carrie
    October 6, 2012 at 8:25 am

    John

    Is there a way to know if the house you are buying has one of these already? thks

    • October 22, 2012 at 9:37 am

      You can look in the meter box but just because you see two meters does not mean that you have a dedicated irrigation meter. Most meter boxes hold two meter, one for your house and one for your neighbor’s house. The easiest way is to look at the bill. If you have a second meter the water purveyor actually sends you a separate bill for that meter though it could be in the same envelope. When in doubt, just call your water company.

      John

  15. Ragina
    September 27, 2012 at 2:10 am

    THis is great but the water caompany could do a better job of getting this kind of info out there. Sheeesh!

  16. Michael
    September 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Do other cities have programs like this John or is this a Houston area thing?

    • October 22, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Michael,

      Yes, most cities have programs like the one described here and they tend to work in a very similar manner. Simply call your water purveyor and ask them about a dedicated irrigation meter. They should have all of the information you need. Before committing to any substantial fee, make sure that the return is there. Find out what sort of credit you get and look at your bills for the last year or two to get an idea of what kind of savings you are looking at. Some purveyors have a set fee for the “sewer” processing fee and I have seen those fees as low as $15.00 per month before which means that the return would not be very significant. In Houston that fee is usually equal to the water consumption which means cutting bills by as much as 50% in some instances. I hope that helps.

      John

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