Proposed changes to the regulations of the National Measurement Institute could reduce water consumption amongst apartment occupants by permitting the installation of sub-metres and increasing the incentive for reduced usage.

Bulk metering continues to be in place for many old apartments in Australia that have only a single water meter for the entire property, resulting in all residents sharing the burden of costs irrespective of how much water they have consumed individually.

This means individual occupants have no incentive to cut down on their water consumption, as landlords lack the means to pass on water usage charges.

Australian company Fair Water Meters is currently seeking to change this situation, by lobbying for amendments to NMI regulations that will make it cheaper and more convenient for apartment owners to install their own sub-meters, and thus create incentives to reduce water usage.

Under the NMI’s current “200 rule,” owners are only allowed to install bulky and unsightly meters with capacities of between 2,500 and 4,000 litres an hour. Those meters are both highly expensive and well beyond the usage levels of the average apartment occupant.

In order to cater to apartment occupants, Fair Water Meters has developed a more compact 1600L/h meter that suits their specific needs. The meter can be installed in apartments in the space of just 20 minutes for around $650, putting it well within the price range of the average apartment owner.

Chris Terblanche, director of Fair Water Meters, said these kinds of smaller water meters had been used in Europe for two decades, providing a far more equitable form of metering than the bulk billing that currently prevails in Australia’s older apartment buildings.

“Our device could put an end to this inequitable system, but to make it commercially available, the NMI needs to relax our repeal its 200 rule and allow smaller meters,” said Terblanche.

In addition to providing fairer billing for water usage in apartments and incentivising reduced consumption, individual meters possess other advantages include leak detection and more detailed monitoring of usage.

Benefits will certainly accrue to landlords, who can only pass water bills to their tenants if sub-meters are installed in individual properties.

Fair Water Meters is now calling on the public to sign a petition for the repeal of the 200 rule, and believes it has the backing of peak bodies and government agencies to bring Australia’s water regulations in line with international norms.

NMI is currently considering the adoption of the updated international water metering regulations (OIML R49) 2013, and will remain open to submissions on the issue until 30 September.