Forward Tinkering



The first water meter being installed by a GMC worker in Co. Kildare on August 8, 2013

Juno McEnroe, in this morning’s Irish Examiner, reports:

Water meters installed in homes across the country have a limited lifespan and may all have to be dug up and replaced in the next 15 years. The Irish Examiner can reveal the meters will only function for a limited number of years — despite costing €500m to install.”

“Irish Water has confirmed the design lifespan of its domestic water meter is in the order of 15 years. This means many of the 1.2 million water meters being installed in homes may only be used for 10 years or less as metering and charges for usage will only come into play in 2019.”

Right so.

€500m Irish Water meters may have to be replaced within 15 years (Irish Examiner)

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54 thoughts on “Forward Tinkering

  1. Steve

    To repeat. Again. Meters, under the current charging structure are not useless. If you are metered and your metered charges comes in lower than the assessed charge then you will be charged the metered charge. So there is an incentive to keep usage low.

    The majority of the €500m cost goes into digging and installing the meter, labour costs, the meter itself is a smaller cost. The digging won’t be done again. The meters may have to be replaced in 15 years but it won’t cost €500m to replace them. Anyway you would be doing well to have your smart phone last 15 years without need for replacement.

    1. ollie

      will you get a bonus for that post steve? I have a load of queries that iw refuse to answer, can you post your e mail address and I’ll forward to you.

      1. smoothlikemurphys

        Query the first: Rabble rabble rabble government rabble traitors rabble Joan something something natural resource rabble no consent something something

    2. Odis

      @ Steve, when you get bored with typing in your usual ****. You could always try the Keynesian economic, argument, – you know pumping money by whatever means into the economy, to revive the Celtic Tiger – that sort of thing.

    3. Dubloony

      Meters are used also to identify where leaks are. So if the leak is fixed, it plays its part in the overall improvement of the system.

      As for giving them back to the councils – try telling that to the people who have been on boil notices for years. The old system didn’t serve us well.

    4. Paolo

      Agreed. The meters are in our best interest. Anyone who wishes to conserve water and control how much of their money goes on water needs to have a meter. Otherwise you are just paying for other people to piss water away.

      A large part of the €500m is down to the increased costs due to the feckin’ protesters. They are costing us all money.

        1. Rob_G

          Of course it is – the contractors get paid every week, whether they’re standing around getting shouted or actually installing the things.

    5. Lolpops

      Eh they haven’t been digging. They’ve been putting meters in the holes that are already there where our stopcocks are. That’s what’s costing the money – the meters. Which we will have to pay for again in ten years if we are thick enough to pay for them this time around.

  2. Soft like

    So we could have got Siemens ones for free as long as we payed for them later but the government opted for giving the contract to there mates one being DOB who managed to pick up these devices which are basically low end units which won’t last 10 years. Only in Ireland can you set up a quango like this and make so many mistakes and still not be held to account. Give water back to the councils before this crowd of imbeciles in this quango waste more money.

    1. Steve

      Hiya RBB. Another lie to get people annoyed.The Siemens meters weren’t free. The money for installing the meters would have been lent from Siemens, from their own private bank,
      to be paid back once the meters were installed. Im pretty sure the Irish government can get money cheaper on the markets than the rates Siemens private bank offered.Anyway if Siemens were so serious about this amazing offer why didn’t they submit a tendering bid.
      I honestly don’t know if they did, maybe bodger could clear it up for me. But if they didn’t then it was baseless self promotion by Siemens.

      1. bisted

        …it’ll all be history soon…the water meters will join the ranks of electronic voting machines…sad thing is that Denis will be paid for every last one, installed or not.

        1. Paolo

          Another disgraceful period in our history where uneducated rabble cost us millions. We are in the dark ages of counting paper ballots when we should have had electronic voting years ago. In fact, we should be phasing it out for remote voting over the Internet. This would at least allow us something a little closer to direct democracy.

          Ireland, the country that is controlled by luddites.

          1. Kieran NYC


            Crazy that one of the main arguments against the electronic machines was “they take away the thrill and excitement of counting and reporting”.

            F off.

      2. ollie

        so you also have the inside track on the Siemens offer steve? why don’t you feck off back to screwing the citizens of Ireland?

    2. Rep

      “we could have got Siemens ones for free as long as we payed for them later”. So not free then? We would in fact just be renting them since we’d be paying for them forever?

  3. Black & White

    My house is 40 years old and seems to have the same ESB meter as it had when it was built, why should water meters last only 10-15 years ?

    1. Mé Féin

      Because water is a precious resource and your phone is more expensive and you spent more on Christmas than you would on water. You sinister element, you.

      1. Steve

        @Black and white. Comparing apples with oranges there. Or lada with BMW. The old revolving discs meters used by ESBN and BGN need to be read manually, which means a lot of money to pay people to go around the whole country checking their readings. Which you pay for through your electricity and gas bill every year.

        The new water meters don’t need people walking around reading every single one every few months. They send out an electronic signal (which has a battery life) to the van driving around. Which means the new metes are a lot cheaper, in the whole, quicker to get reads and more efficient for the system.

        1. Odis

          So are you saying?
          1) Someone just needs to go round and change the batteries. Which would have been the smart thing to say in the first place.
          Or are you saying?
          2) That they are fecked in ten years. And will have to be dug out, disposed of, and replaced.
          And you would like to pretend this costs less money than having someone come round and read them once a year.

          Maybe you should get a cup of coffee before typing

          1. Steve

            Odis, I’m actually a big believer in Keynesian economics. I brought levity coz the responses offered to my point were purely accusation , without any proper counter argument offered, which I think deserved only stupidity and jest in response.

            You provided a response , although without fact and supporting information. But anyway.

            ESBN aims to read domestic meters 6 times a year. Not once. In reality it’s 4 times, so that’s 4 times a year 2 million houses needs to be walked around to.


            The annual cost of this is approx €100m
            . Have a read of section 5.3.4 of below


            So over the lifespan of the water domestic meters, ESBN will have spent €1.5 billion reading old revolving discs meters 4 times a year. So yes it is far cheaper to replace electronic water meters which don’t need manual reads, or to be excavated as you suggest, every 15 years.

            Maybe you should get a cup of coffee before typing.

          2. smoothlikemurphys

            “That they are fecked in ten years. And will have to be dug out, ”

            The meters sit within an enclosure, which has been placed into the ground. Once the enclosure is there, the meter can be accessed to read/repair/replace as necessary without the use of a JCB.

            But ‘dug out’, conjuring up images of more GMC sierra vans about the place, serves your point better so carry on.

          3. paul m

            Hey Steve

            if you read just above the table you quoted your figures for from that CER link it says
            “the operational costs approved by the CER for 2006 to 2010” that is in relation to table 6 but that table also lists the 100million you state as yearly meter read costs in 5.3.4. So wouldnt that make the yearly cost 25million? Also that cost includes not just meter reading, but the costs for data aggregation and customer meter operation costs (eg repairing/replacing meters).

          4. Steve

            Paul M – I stand completely corrected, my apologies!! Yes it is a 5 year allowance. So the ESBN cost over the 15 years will be approx. 300 million. But Thanks for that. defo weakens my point.
            But I suppose even still, if the cost of water reinstallation is around 150m in 15 years, it’s still cheaper than the 300m put in by ESBN over the same time period

          5. paul m

            Steve, ‘i suppose’ is about as factual as other peoples points on here. Where are you getting the figure of €150 million to replace water meters? The CER data on ESBN costs is for meter reading AND data aggregation AND other services. Read the document you linked to. You’re not comparing like with like. So far there is no accurate breakdown of costs from IW about how much meter reading actually costs because they havent done it yet and they’ll still need to send a car down every road as its RFID signal required a short range proximity to read. Likewise no accurate figures for replacing the units because although some of them are broken already it is being reported that they have yet to implement their one free fix policy (that starts this year even though meters were bust last year pissing thousands of litres of water away). As an aside, ESBN have already trialled smart metering that reports the data remotely removing the need for a meter checker and so far appear to be absorbing the costs of rolling out this update nationally as the longer term savings/benefit to them is apparent. Begs the question then that if IW need to dig up so much of the country to fix the pipe network why a remote operated smart metering system wasnt installed then and not second rate outdated equipment in advance. I dont even know why you are comparing the two companies beyond the fact they use a metering system, their operational skills couldnt be further apart (i use the word company in relation to IW losely as expensive joke, quango, moneypit seem more apt)

          6. Steve

            Great stuff, I’m liking this. Proper debate without resorting to calling each other shills, stooges etc. apart from your last line :)

            You are correct . There isn’t a definite figure out there of how much the actual water meter costs, leaving out labour costs associated with it. Which is a pity, IW should provide that. But our very own broadsheet provided a figure.


            I just multiplied the high end figure by number of meters to be installed 1 million) to give €150m replacement cost but hey you’re right I could be completely wrong. obviously you wouldn’t replace every meter in 15 years, some can last operationally longer than 15 years, as IW posted at lunchtime today.

            You’re right again on mete reading costs, there isn’t an accurate breakdown of IW meter reading costs because they haven’t done it yet.But surely logic dictates that it would be cheaper to drive around in a van picking up multiple meter reads than an army of men doing it Manually. Cars are generally faster than people walking.

            I’m all for smart metering. I think it would be a great idea for people to have their electricity gas and water all being controlled off one internal remote meter. As for the cost benefit of smart meters, you seem to indicate it’s positive. Could you show me where, coz the CER’s initial study seems to indicate it’s negative for electricity and tiny margin positive for gas. Have a look at exec summary of;


            As for ESBN rolling out this smart metering free of charge and absorbing the cost coz they see then benefits. Don’t think so. Have a look at section 8.7.3 of Cer paper I linked above. ESBN think it will cost €500m and they are gonna recover that money in electricity bills if the smart metering programme does go ahead.

    2. Grouse

      If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because there are mechanical stresses involved in measuring water flow that aren’t an issue while measuring electricity. But I don’t really know how water meters work. Most online diagrams show the water flowing through the meter.

      1. Mikeyfex

        They’re electromagnetic meters so there are no mechanical stresses, indeed, the flow is through the meter. The internal diameter of the meter section should match the ID of the pipe work so there would not even be a bottle neck effect. (incidentally, if there was a bottle neck effect, that, of course would cause a pressure drop down-stream of the meter, giving us another very valid reason to complain).

        Anyway, they are built to adhere to the Measurement Instrument Directive which is the EU standard for simple process flow measurement, and as such must have an MTBF (mean time between failure) figure for the perusal of clients. On new products in particular this figure is often pie in the sky. Perhaps made up of data from component parts rather than uptime and downtime figures of the unit itself, thus ignoring the quality of the manufacturing of the product. And other times calculated by adding up the uptime of all meters in use even though you might have just 100 units commissioned for a year and just 1 has failed. Even at that ratio, that would predict a large MTBF. Certainly in the case of these Irish Water water meters, the earliest to fail would be an electrical component, rather than something mechanical. To address your point, Grouse.

        Point is, my suggestion would be that someone in Irish Water thought 15 years was a long time, others think it’s not long at all based on not really suitable comparisons. In the flow metering industry it’s actually about right but I personally would expect a longer life from a flowmeter such as an electromagnetic one.

    3. Milo

      Because water unlike Electricity has impurities like Lime that mechanically degrade water meters unlike electricity. I mean, you don’t really have to think hard on these things do you?

  4. Formerly known as

    My 30 year old house in Melbourne, Australia, still has its original water meter. It sits in the garden, so I can check it. My water does cost about $3 (2EU) per day.

      1. TheDude

        So it comes from the same place that your 52% Income Tax, 23% VAT (60% on Petrol), Motor Tax, RTE Tax, Dirt Tax, Property Tax etc goes? Maybe its because the part of that set aside for water services is now siphoned off to that Troika cloud?

  5. Mikeyfex

    It’s surely a mean time between failure figure based on operation to date and not really on the ‘they don’t build em like they used to’ attitude.

    News for ye, some will fail before then, some will operate well past it. They were asked and Irish Water stupidly answered, based on…something.

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