“We had to work on every inch of our house and in every corner,” said Joanna.
“And then you’ve got the whole building going up and down and everything has to be moved and that was just too much.”
In addition, it was hard to maintain the water flow.
“It was very challenging,” she said.
“When we went on holiday in the Philippines it was a very different experience.”
They decided to move into a bigger house.
But the challenges were not over.
They had to buy a second pump, which meant they had to switch from a drip system to a continuous one.
“We couldn’t afford to go back and have the second pump because it cost us $15,000,” said Michelle.
“So we had to do it ourselves.”
The cost of maintaining the second water meter Michelle and Joanna used for two years in the UK was around $10,000, with a minimum of $1,000 in expenses for repairs.
“I was very, very unhappy,” she admitted.
“You know, I don’t like paying for things like that.”
So when they moved to the US in 2011, Michelle started using her meter at home to save money and save energy.
“The first two months we were like, ‘Okay, I’m going to put this in the back of the fridge.
It’s not like I’m buying new clothes,” she laughed.
“But then I realized, ‘Well, we could save $3,000 a month if we only used it at home’.” After a few months, she started to buy the meter.
She also started to put her water in a cooler to save energy, which has reduced the time it takes to clean the water.
But she said she had to keep a close eye on her water usage.
“In the US, we have a system that lets us know if we’re using too much water.
We use less water and it’s better for us,” she explained.
“There’s a system in the US that lets you know if you’re using water too much.
But here in the States we don’t have that option.”
Michelle said she found it difficult to keep up with the increasing demand for her water meter and the extra cost she had spent on upgrades.
“Sometimes we have to go to the landfill to recycle it,” she complained.
“Our water meter has to sit on the ground for about three years before it’s recycled.
I have to spend hundreds of dollars on it just to get it recycled.”
Michelle also has a water meter in her back garden and has noticed a rise in water usage when she uses it.
“My back garden is growing a lot, it’s getting bigger, and it has an extremely high rate of evaporation,” she told MTV News.
“Every year I think we’re going to have a massive amount of rainwater.
I’m getting a lot of questions from people, ‘Why do you keep your water meter on your back?’
And it’s like, we’re a pretty good water conservation system, right?”
In response, Michelle said, “We’ve got a lot going on there.”
In 2014, Michelle was surprised to discover that her water meters were not connected to the internet.
“At the time, I was really worried that it might just get out of control and get stolen,” she continued.
“Because it’s not connected.”
So she decided to start a Facebook page to monitor the meter’s usage and make sure it was not being misused.
“Once I started to see people complaining, I started going into the water meter’s area to look and to make sure they weren’t using too little water,” she recalled.
“If they were, I’d send them a message and I’d give them an email address so they could be alerted about it.”
After several complaints, she realised her water was being used incorrectly.
She then contacted the Environmental Protection Agency, which was alerted to the issue.
“They were pretty shocked,” she recounted.
“That was really hard to understand.
I thought they might have been duped.”
“I’m a huge fan of their work, but when you go to court to get a court order you get your water back,” Michelle said.
In the US alone, there are more than 2.7 billion meters in use, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
“To me, that’s huge,” she added.
“Water conservation is a big deal in the world.
It affects everybody.”
Michelle and her husband, David, are now working to bring more water meters to the Philippines, where there is much less demand.
“Now we have more than 100,000 meters in the country,” she shared.
“As the demand rises, I think that’s going to be very important.”