Water Conservation: Encourage Conservation by Sub-Metering Water Usage

Residents who pay for their own water use less.  Understanding one’s usage is necessary in order to reduce both the amount of water used and the amount they are billed for. This enables residents to directly reduce the cost by reducing the amount used.

In the majority of multi-unit New Jersey buildings served by regulated water utilities water use in a multi-family dwelling is measured by a single master meter that is owned, maintained and monitored by the investor-owned water utility. This single master meter does not distinguish between water use in one apartment or the next, or water use for common areas (e.g. community laundries, landscaping, swimming pools).

Because such master meters do not differentiate between the amounts of water used by one apartment from another, and because residents therefore have no incentive to conserve water and save money by using less water, single building utility meters encourage waste and do nothing to encourage or induce water conservation. This wasteful scenario of unchecked consumption runs counter to clear, longstanding State public policy that favors water conservation.

Sub-metering is a means to monitor and account for utility usage in each unit of multiple family buildings. Sub-metering puts residents of rental housing in a position to see and understand their own water use.

Clear evidence of the benefits of sub-metering was indicated in 2004 study by the EPA uncovering an average water savings of 15% after sub-meters were installed in multi-family rental communities by measuring individual in-unit consumption. Dartmouth University also conducted a study that same year which identified savings of 20 to 32%. These studies indicate that sub-metering encourages people to conserve when they are fiscally responsible for paying the bill and held accountable for personal usage. Renters and property owners have a vested in conservation of our natural resources and sub-metering is a proven tool to advance greater conservation practices.

NJAA supports policies that favor the introduction of sub-metering for water service through rules that are fair to residents, providing them with a cost benefit that will flow from their own water use and conversation. At the same time, owners must have sufficient incentive to pay the substantial cost of the installation of sub-metering equipment.

Sub-metering in New Construction

NJAA applauds BPU President Lee Solomon for leading the Board of Public Utilities to issue a Board Order approving a New Jersey Apartment Association petition to permit sub-metering in newly constructed buildings. This approval is the culmination of more than eight years of active engagement by the NJAA with the Board Commissioners and professional staff, and is one of the first energy policy recommendations from the Lt Governor’s bi-partisan Red Tape Review Commission Report to be enacted. The need to re-visit New Jersey’s restrictive policy on sub-metering in rental housing was listed as a specific policy recommendation in the Lt Governor’s bi-partisan Red Tape Report of April 2010. NJAA received support from 15 state Legislative leaders as well as Plan Smart NJ, a leading planning and land use organization, who voiced support for the Board’s approval of the petition.

Sub-Metering in Existing Properties

New Jersey will only achieve significant statewide savings by expanding sub-metering service to existing properties.  While there are more issues with installing sub-meters retroactively, the issues and challenges are not insurmountable.  The installation of sub-meters in one quarter of all the existing apartments in the state (262,500 units) would yeld more than 2.1 billion gallons of water conservation each year.  Legislation sponsored by in the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly would put New Jersey on a path toward achieving these water savings.

Pending Legislation: