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When Community Services District Director Bobbi Belton recently asked friends and neighbors about their water bills, she wanted to see how actual water usage compared with figures used in CSD planning documents.   

Instead, the small sampling revealed an ongoing problem with the community's water meters that cost the district about $4,000 in lost revenue in June. It also raised questions about the reliability of water usage data in the Integrated Water Master Plan the CSD adopted last year.

What Belton found was several households were being charged just the base rate for their water use because their water meters weren't monitoring the amount of water they actually used.

After further investigation, staff provided a list of about 230 "zero read" meters at this month's CSD Finance Committee meeting.  That's 9.4 percent of the community's 2,450 homes.

General Manager Ed Crouse said charges for water usage beyond the monthly $22.40 residential base rate average about $19.50.  

"It's definitely a revenue impact," said Les Tyler, director of administration.

The 2007-08 budget projects water revenues of $1.25 million.

"We need to maintain priorities, and this is our bread and butter. This is basic stuff," Crouse said Tuesday. "Now that we recognize it hasn't been done, we're taking a hard push to get all of those taken care by the end of this month. ... They're going to be addressed and completed each month so we never have this happen again."

 He said the problem had escalated because, "We didn't recognize it getting out of priority. Those should have always been addressed on a monthly basis."

There are about 20 zero-reads each month, Crouse said.  Since a zero-read usually indicates a problem with the meter itself, the best way to handle it is to replace the meter.

Utility Worker Supervisor Rob McLeod said Tuesday that all but 16 of the zero-read meters have been replaced already.

"Our big effort has been getting these things fixed and they will be fixed by the end of this week," Tyler said. (The utility crew) has been very busy. ... It's taken a lot of resources, with other things going on and all."

He said the rule of thumb is a meter should last 10 years, and "some of these meters have been in the ground 18 years and they work fine." The meters have a five-year pro-rated warranty.

 "We've always had zero reads and we always will," Tyler said. "... Everywhere you go this is a common problem. ... Most places wait until (the meters) fail (to replace them), but the key is staying on top of it."

Tyler said he is researching the timeline for the build-up in zero-reads to understand when the problem began. Staffing issues for the utility department last year and an increased workload due to the cease and desist order are viewed as factors in the run-up.   

Replacement meters cost the CSD about $200, plus staff time for installation. The North presents more installation problems than the South, since some digging is required and the meters are sometimes buried in the landscape, Tyler said.

There was concern expressed at the committee meeting that the number of out-of-service meters could affect usage figures the CSD is relying on for future development, although the total amount of water used by the community is well-documented.

Crouse said the figure used in the Integrated Water Master Plan -- 750 gallons per day per household -- is a planning number and "a worst-case number." The report refers to 655 gallons per day per household as the historic usage figure for the community.

Crouse said data from 2004-05 that was used for the report would be reexamined to see if the zero-read backlog extended back that far.

The committee discussed changing meter reads to the 15th of the month to allow additional time to correct problems before billing occurred, and Belton recommended estimating water usage so households with zero-reading meters could be billed.

Officials did not indicate any desire to try to collect money owed as a result of the faulty meters, which appear as an item on this afternoon's CSD board meeting agenda.

Marklin Brown's picture
Joined: 08/12/2007
Posts: 196
Post rating: 104

Water Meter

Were there any CSD employee's that had Zero water meter reads?

Diane Hatcher's picture
Joined: 08/14/2007
Posts: 11
Post rating: 8

Hmmm.  I wonder how long

Hmmm.  I wonder how long this has been going on.  It would seem to me that replacing a meter when it goes out would be something that you would keep up on.  If it were my business,  I would not want to be wasting 4k each month just because I could not factor in time to install a new meter.   Come on,  they could have easily outsourced this if it was truly something they cared about.  Instead they just raise the rates of the people that are being charged to make up for the difference in income.

Lisa Hawk's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 5
Post rating: 0

I remember something about those meters...

I remember reading (I think in the Pipeline) a few years ago that the CSD once had people reading the water meters and then they changed over to an some sort of radio thing where someone would just drive around and in about 3 hours, would read all the meters instead of taking a crew something like 3 days to do the same job.

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