Meter reading procedures
Specifications on regular and manual checks on consumers’ water meters.
To estimate water consumption and produce water bills for consumers with water meters, dedicated utility staff regularly (usually monthly) and manually check consumers’ meters at their premises. Procedures on meter reading are guidelines on how this activity has to be conducted, including responsibilities, standard operating procedures, area of operation and so on.
PURPOSE & LINK TO INTEGRITY
Clear procedures improve the fairness and accuracy of meter reading and allow the utilities to bill the effectively used water. Improved meter reading procedures can reduce risks such as collusion of the meter reader or side payments for under-billing or fraudulent meter readings.1 Additionally, illegal connections can be uncovered. Thus, improved meter reading procedures reduce opportunities for petty corruption between staff and customers as well as private water vending through company staff. Correct and fair meter reading can lead to higher revenues, as it improves the efficiency of billing. Eventually, this will improve customer relations and the image of the utility.
- Does your organization have standard operating procedures or job descriptions in place that the meter reading procedures have to be aligned with (See also tools Standard operating procedures, Connection procedures, Disconnection & reconnection procedures, Illegal connection control and Job descriptions)?
To encourage honest and correct meter reading, several methods can be applied:2,3,4
- Organise your meter reading areas: A useful strategy is to design zones and routes that are approximately equal. By organising the reading operation into equal zones and routes, it’s easier to ensure that meter readers have equal workload throughout the cycle. More importantly for larger utilities, if continuous billing is employed, a good plan can ensure that your revenue flow is smooth throughout the month.
- Change meter readers’ routes on a regular basis: Ensure that every meter reader can work in any route or zone covered by the utility. If only one reader is familiar with certain routes, he can introduce habitual errors that may be costly for the company. Secondly, by ensuring that any reader can read any route, you can assure all staff that the leave calendar will be honoured regardless of which zone is being read.
- Provide directions to your meters: If you do not have resources to invest in GPS (Global Positioning System) enabled data loggers, there is a simple way to assist readers to quickly locate meters. Store simple direction notes e.g. “10 steps behind XYZ kiosk”. Providing directions is a simple way to ensure that even readers who are not very familiar with a route do not struggle too much, or even fail to obtain a reading.
- Sequence your meters: Are your meter readers reading the meters in an organised manner or is it haphazardly done within the routes? If you read meters at the same time every month every time, you are less likely to surprise your customer with a bill that will make them come to the office with a complaint. You can streamline your reading operation further by ensuring that meters are read in a certain sequence every time. Sequencing makes it harder to miss any meter. If you are using an electronic device to read the meters, this is much easier to enforce since the accounts can be loaded as sequenced. It’s also possible with manual reading, but slightly more difficult.
- Rationalise the comments: When deciding what comments you want the meter readers to report, ensure that each comment is unique and actionable (i.e. leads to some corrective action by your team). A comment “meter stopped” should prompt your technical team to organise a quick replacement. “Misty dial” should be used by procurement to plan for the next order of meters. “Not found” means the meter’s location needs to be clarified. A rationalised list of comments is also an optimum one – neither too long nor too short.
- Evaluate route and meter reader performance: An important management adage is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. This is also true in meter reading. Some useful measurements include “how many meters is each staff reading per cycle?” You can also benchmark zones with a view to improving the areas that are lagging (e.g. the zone that features most “Not found” anomalies). With measurement, it becomes easier to improve or know when things are not being done correctly.
- Install automated, wireless reading of meters and direct data entry into customer database (see tool “(Semi-)automatic water meters”).
- Remove past billing information from meter readers’ books or use new meter reading applications (e.g. via mobile phone) not showing old customer data.
- Manage the meter readers: Recruit readers well (they are a main interface with the clients!). Train the readers (readers should be aware of the importance of their work through training and regular interaction with management). Keep them responsible for the readings and evaluate readers’ performance. Reward performance.
- Install pre-paid meter readers
- Educate consumers on how to read meters.
Meter readings can also be missed due to genuine causes, as in the cases of: access denied, fierce dogs, gate locked, meter not found, misty dial, no meter, etc. A separate entry field may reduce the likelihood of junk.1,3,5,6
KEY GUIDING DOCUMENTS
Nordmann, D., 2012, Deepening Governance in Water and Sanitation Services, A discussion paper for Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB)
Nordmann, D., Peters, P. & Werchota, R., 2013, Good Governance in the Kenyan Water Sector, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Germany, https://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2012-en-watergovernance-kenya.pdf, accessed 07.12.2015
meter-reading.co.ke, 2012, Is it time to consider prepaid water meters?, meter-reading.co.ke
meter reading.co.ke, 2012, Did the meter reader read the meter?, meter reading.co.ke
meter reading.co.ke, 2012, Are you following best practice in meter reading?, meter reading.co.ke
GIZ WAVEPlus, 2013, Proposed Integrity Guideline Manual for the Kenyan Water Sector (Draft), GIZ WAVEPlus, Kenya
- Nordmann, D., 2012, Deepening Governance in Water and Sanitation Services, A discussion paper for Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB)
- meter-reading.co.ke, 2012, Is it time to consider prepaid water meters?, meter-reading.co.ke,
- meter reading.co.ke, 2012, Did the meter reader read the meter?, meter reading.co.ke,
- meter reading.co.ke, 2012, Are you following best practice in meter reading?, meter reading.co.ke,
- Nordmann, D., Peters, P. & Werchota, R., 2013, Good Governance in the Kenyan Water Sector, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Germany, https://www.giz.de/fachexpertise/downloads/giz2012-en-watergovernance-kenya.pdf, accessed 07.12.2015
- GIZ WAVEPlus, 2013, Proposed Integrity Guideline Manual for the Kenyan Water Sector (Draft), GIZ WAVEPlus, Kenya