What can you assemble in 1:14 minutes? That’s how long it took Valier Public Works employee John Paddock to properly build a Zenner water meter at the 2023 Montana Rural Water Systems Conference. His performance in the competition earned John a trip to the National Rural Water Association WaterPro Conference in Aurora, Colorado this September.

 The competition challenge was to rebuild a water meter that had been disassembled. After completion the meter is checked for accuracy before declaring winners. 

 “I wasn’t expecting to do that well,” reported Paddock, who finished fourth in the competition last year. “I was really surprised.” His reward was a $300 gift card and the opportunity to compete on the national level in Aurora in September. 

 Customers might not give their water meters a second thought, but speed can be an important factor when a repair is needed. Old meters often require new parts and occasionally meters new meters are required. “If the frost plate cracks,” Paddock explained, “they (meters) have to be replaced. That usually happens when it’s thirty below.” 

 Paddock further explained that the meters used in Valier are a lot more complex than the Zenner meter used in the competition, but the experience has taught him to work a little better under pressure - something a customer might appreciate when their meter breaks in sub-zero weather. 

 Some tips to protect meters from the severe cold are 1) keep a steady flow so water doesn’t stay stagnant and freeze in the meter, 2) if your meter is in a crawl space use a small box heater during cold weather, 3) place a heating cable and insulation around the water line. If breakage does occur, rest assured your Public Works people will be prepared for repairs.

 John is preparing for his national competition by practicing at home. His fastest time thus far has improved to 58 seconds. He has a goal to beat the 2022 winning time of 45 seconds. 

 Montana Rural Water is paying for his trip to Colorado, so what John Paddock really needs from friends and family is moral support. The prize for the fastest time at the national conference is a trophy and a trip to Hawaii while second and third place also receive trophies and cash prizes. 

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