Idea I Wanna Explore: Improved Meter Reading

The seeds for this came from a problem I've been faced with. House I'm living in had a water pipe that, till it got replaced, would crack if you so much as breathed wrong it seemed. Wouldn't find out something's wrong unless the whole house was quiet and you listen in the hall bathroom, or go check the meter and s ee the little needle doing laps.

Very not good. Sure the main pipe from road to house is replaced so that should cover things. However there's still a bunch of old piping in the house, going out to the barn, going out to the different outside spouts. Plus I'm sure more than just this particular house has this problem. I'm also not a programmer, engineer, or in any way knowledgeable enough to know if the following thought can hold water.

We have the Arduino, low cost microcontroller thing in several flavors that is, in theory, easy for beginners (like me) to find ways to get input from different sensor packages, and Do Stuff with it. Do what you ask?

How about have some kind of propeller/hamsterwheel/something in a section of pipe put between meter and home that will have a minimal impact on water flow/pressure. Have a way to input your current utility's method of calculating useage costs. With hte right hookups (say.... bluetooth or wifi....) you could wave your phone over where you have the antinna mounted (on your mailbox seems good for this application since the water meter is usually close to the mailbox) and without bending down, opening up the thing, and try squinting to see what the needles are doing, tell if the water's running, what your current (estimated) bill is likely to be, and if this were actually picked up by the utility folk I'm sure they could go by and run a gizmo over the antenna to get their useage data, bill you through the device, and if you have an automated bill-pay setup that's it. I'm sure with someone that knew what they were doing a way could be found to turn on/off the water from the Arduino and require some special code or something before it could be cut back on.

Then I got to thinking if this could work for Water. Why not electrical? Different sensor package, but same principal. Reading a current and comparing what's used in a fixed amount of time against a formula used to calculate costs with some potential added functionality thrown in.

Ideas? Has anywhere actually done this on a large scale? 

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