May I use water on Shabbos if the usage is being recorded by a digital meter?

May I use water on Shabbos if the usage is being recorded by a digital meter?

Digital water meters, which monitor and record water usage electronically, have become prevalent lately. Does this pose a problem on Shabbos, since it would seem that a digital form of writing takes place when one uses water?

Although those who don’t use these meters out of the desire to honor the sanctity of Shabbos tavo aleihem brachah (should be commended), the consensus among contemporary poskim is that digital water meters are not an issue due to a combination of factors, among them:

It’s not considered a typical form of writing, and at the very worst would be forbidden only m’d’rabanan (rabbinically).

The writing is the result of a grama, a secondary result merely caused by the primary, intended act.

It’s also koach kocho, not something obviously attributable to the original act of opening the faucet, but rather the result of a convoluted process many steps removed from that initial deed.

It’s a davar sheino miskaven—there is no intention of performing the melachah (forbidden act) of kosev (writing). It's not considered a pesik reisha (an act with an inevitable outcome) which is forbidden even when inadvertent, since—in many digital meters— each individual usage isn’t recorded, and the meter only registers when a certain level of usage is reached. Thus, there is no certainty that any particular usage will trigger a digital recording. This is called a safek pesik reisha (it is doubtful whether the outcome is inevitable), and since it’s only a d’rabanan, one may be lenient.

It’s lo nichah leh—the person using the water has no desire that their use of water be recorded electronically. (Although it could be argued that one might actually want the usage to be recorded if the alternative is paying a higher fee, it still doesn’t mean that there’s a desire that it be recorded in this particular, forbidden manner). #508⁠1

Practical Halacha: One minute a day. By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, shlita, Mara D'asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights.