Soundwater 4A municipality in lower British Columbia had been using electromagnetic technology (mag meter) to monitor potable water distribution. Concerns were raised when several of these meters began to report measurements significantly different from typical historical data, as well as periodic fluctuations. With a potential risk to public water distribution, and/or custody transfer affecting billing, the city quickly took steps to investigate the root cause of the problem.

At first glance, it was impossible to know whether there was a mechanical problem with the distribution process or a problem with the mag meter measurements. Typically, if a flowmeter is in question, its performance may be validated by a third-party flow laboratory. In this case, the mag meters were a permanent part of the piping system and removing them would have required a shut-down of the water distribution process. A shut-down could potentially have an impact on public water distribution, and at significant cost and time. Understanding these consequences, the municipality reached out to Huw Evans at CB Process, an industrial instrumentation expert, for advice.


Huw suggested to first validate the mag meter measurements. This can be done easily, but only with an ultrasonic clamp-on type flowmeter. Ultrasonic clamp-on technology enables a flowmeter to sense fluid from outside the pipe without contacting the fluid. SoundWater’s Orcas Portable flowmeter does just that. It is also battery powered and easily transported which is ideal for validating permanently installed inline flow meters.Soundwater 3-1

Within minutes of arriving with SoundWater’s Orcas, Huw was able to install and measure flow at each of the three sites i

n question. Immediately, the big question was answered:  three inline mag meters were indeed reporting incorrect flow data. Armed with this new knowledge, the municipality proceeded with a solution to replace the erroneous mag meters. Perhaps ultrasonic flowmeters are in their future?

In addition to replacing the inline flowmeters, this municipality is also considering purchasing a SoundWater Orcas portable flowmeter, an essential tool to maintain, validate, and debug their flow process.

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When installing inline flowmeters, the total cost of ownership should be considered. Consider the consequence of installing an instrument as a permanent part of the pipe system. What might be the costs associated with installation or removal of that device, or shutting the process down? Often those costs are extremely high. In those cases, ultrasonic flowmeters are a more sensible, long-term solution.

Ultrasonic flowmeters are the only technology that may be installed outside of a pipe, and for which NO pipe alteration is necessary for installation. They are also extremely lightweight (as compared to flanged in-line flowmeters) and may be transported easily for maintenance or verification. They can also be installed or removed on any process without shutting it down. Total costs of ownership, maintenance, and your frustration can be significantly less.