Mérida, Yucatán — As many as 12,000 more water meters will be replaced, switching from bronze and copper to plastic, to deter future thefts.
The general director of JAPAY, the local water company, signed an agreement with Conagua, the national water commission, to undertake the ongoing project. The transition from metal to plastic began in 2008.
In 2015, some 6,000 plastic alloy meters were installed in the city center; an equal amount were reported swapped the year before.
The old water meters are comprised of materials tempting to thieves, who can turn around and sell them for scrap metal. So tempting, in fact, that one to two metal meters are reported stolen each day.
Thieves find it easy to yank off the meters, since they face the street. Simply loosen the two nuts that attach the meter to the pipes; this maneuver takes a few seconds. Many homeowners have resisted the simple precaution of padlocking the meter with a metal plate, which some find to be expensive and inconvenient.
But since JAPAY began replacing them with plastic, thefts have decreased.
Homeowners whose metal meters have been stolen should file a report with the police; otherwise, JAPAY may find you financially responsible for the theft.
But it’s not always easy for victims of meter thieves.
One homeowner, a U.S. native living in Santiago, reported her water meter missing seven weeks ago. JAPAY arrived that day to cap off the pipe, which was spraying water into the street.
The homeowner filed a police report, so she won’t be responsible financially for a replacement — but the replacement has yet to arrive, although it was promised within 30 days.
She did, however, hire a plumber to bypass the cap, at Japay’s suggestion, so she would still have running water in the house.
“The upside is I get free water,” the homeowner said this morning. “The downside is, my opening for the meter is too small to meet the new requirements and I have to have it enlarged. I’ll install a protector to avoid further theft.”