Customer concerns regarding high water bills

 Customer concerns regarding high water bills

Water meter

 A few points about accounts/bills

  • ​Tiered water rates - have been
    in effect all year long since May 2006.
  • TABOR refund - a $13.22 refund on 9/30 may
    cause the balance due My Account to appear
    differently than on the printed bill.
  • Not-for-Profit - As a community-owned
    utility, our revenue offsets our expenses.
  • Automated meters - We have investigated our
    automated metering systems and found no
    indications of errors or problems. Our system
    is monitored 24x7. When an issue is identified,
    a service order is immediately opened for a field
    specialist to evaluate and fix if necessary.

In response to customer concerns regarding high bills - in particular, high water bills - we have analyzed;

  • our billing and meter systems,
  • production and consumption data,
  • historical weather data,
  • rate accuracy,
  • production and consumption data of other utilities in the area.

In the last month, we have engaged more than 1,000 customers through;

  • Phone conversations - We've listened to concerns, reviewed usage patterns, ensured the accuracy of data and provided solutions.
  • Personal visits - By customer request or as a follow-up to account reviews, field representatives met customers at their homes to investigate high consumption concerns.

In our review of production and consumption data, we learned two very interesting facts:

  1. August water use was the lowest in the last 5 years.
  2. September water use was the second highest in the last 5 years.

While September was one of the wettest on record, almost all of that moisture came the last week of the month.

We have heard from or proactively contacted more than 1,000 customers, which is less than 0.5% of total water customers. We've made approximately 175 visits to customers' homes to inspect systems/equipment and check for leaks. Through in-depth looks into customer accounts and visiting homes, the top three things we are finding are:

  1. Customers simply used more than they realized.
  2. A leak or malfunction in the sprinkler system.
  3. A leak inside the home.

Here are a few details about the situation.

  • Water use averaged 93.9 million gallons a day (MGD) in September, up more than 14 MGD from August.
  • City-wide water consumption increased 40% from August to September.
  • The average water bill increased 26% from August to September.
  • September 2017 water consumption is about 3.5% more than September 2016.
  • The weather in late August through the first part of September was warmer and dryer than earlier in the summer.
  • This year, 99.61% - 99.91% of more than 570,000 meters in the system have provided daily reads.
  • 99.93% of all meter reads used for bills were provided.

During the latest billing period, there was not an unusual number of spikes. It appears that customers have responded to the last few hot-dry weeks with increased irrigation. This caused some to move into the second or third tier of the water tariff. The billing rate for the third tier is nearly three-times that of tier 1.

If you have concerns about your water bill, please call 448-4800 and a service representative will be happy to look deeper into your account.

We appreciate customers alerting us to their concerns and being aware of their bills and consumption. Awareness leads to more efficient use of both energy and water resources. Several customer billing solutions are available to help our customers with high bills. They include:

  • My Usage - Monitor you electric, natural gas and water consumption on a daily basis.
  • Budget Billing - Level your bills to make the same payment each month.
  • Efficiency tips - Find easy, low-cost ways to make your home more energy and water efficient.
  • Drip calculator - Even small leaks add up over time.
  • Rebates - Offset some of your costs to make efficiency improvements to you home.

The chart below illustrates that water use this year was lower mid-July through mid-August than mid-August through September. The calendars below, from Weather Underground, illustrate the temperatures for the dates in question as well as precipitation. While precipitation increased in September this year, water use did not decrease.

Colorado Springs Water Use and Precipitation

August 2017

September 2017