Anyone else think water board’s treated them unfairly?

By George Newman

I would like to respond  to the question raised by Ernie Garrett in the June 14 Guest Editorial, “Where are all the voices.”

I think we in Ramona can be thankful that the Ramona Municipal Water District Board did NOT show up to protest the water price increase from the Metropolitan Water District.

If the board did half the job it is doing managing Ramona’s water distribution, by speaking against the increase, we in Ramona would probably wind up paying twice as much as anyone else.

This board has done a shameful, incompetent job of looking after Ramona residents’ water problems by ignoring any customer complaints of excessively high water bills to meter errors.

One has only to go online and type in water meter billing errors to find that these high water bill problems are in every city in the United States and Canada. Most water utilities resolve these high bill problems by reducing the bills on the basis of prior water usage. Some customers have even received bills as high as $100,000!

How does the RMWD handle its high water bill complaints? “Meters don’t lie. Pay up or we will cut off your water.” Period.

I am a graduate engineer and was in charge of a system having almost 300,000 meters, roughly the same size as the city of San Diego. Forty years ago, I found out what the problem was, and it is not rocket science. Anyone, with a little effort, can quickly find out if the excessively high water consumption is due to a meter error or not. One has only to examine the past meter readings for a pattern and see if that pattern has been broken. And, residential water meter readings tend to be  quite predictable.

What one will find is that the readings tend to move up or down, at a more or less predictable rate, i.e.  (and I am quoting from my own meter reading history), my meter reading was 1732, then 60 days later, it was 1790, then 60 days later, 1823, then 60 days later, 1927. Then, something strange happened. The reading did not go to a 2000-something reading.  Instead, it jumped  right up to 2249, registering a water consumption of 322 hcf, (hundred cubic feet), not the usually less than  100 hcf that the meter had registered in the prior periods. And the dollar amount billed went up accordingly, from $279 in  the prior period, to $805 for the period under examination.

What happened to the reading in the 2000 range?  What happened to the reading in the 2100 range? By skipping these two ranges, the meter added in an additional 200 hcf of water, that never went through the meter.

As proof of this type of meter error actually happening, in March 2006 I was asked by a neighbor in her 70s, living alone, if I could help her with a problem she was having with SDG&E. She had received an electric bill for $1,163.06, when her previous bills had always been under $100. She had complained to SDG&E and was given the usual runaround that meters don’t lie, the meter tested OK, if she didn’t pay they would cut off her electric, etc.

I looked at the situation and realized that it was a physical and engineering-wise impossibility that she could have used that amount of power in a 60- day period. As an SDG&E supervisor later agreed with me, there wasn’t enough connected load to  the house to run up a bill  that high.

I then assembled all the previous bills and meter readings in front of me, and there was the answer, staring at me right in the face. The previous period meter reading had ended in the 49,900 kilowatt-hour range. And, when the meter was about to change to the 50,000 kwh range, it did not got to the 50,000 kwh range, it did not go to the 51,000 kwh range, it did not go to the 52,000 kwh range, it went directly to the 53,000 kwh range. This added an additional 3000 kwh to the billing, which, when this 3000 kwh was subtracted from the billing, the amount was in line with all previous billings.

Upon receiving my report, SDG&E promptly refunded their customer  the amount she had been over-billed.

I have shown the RMWD board, twice now, in my own case, where I have received bills that were excessively high —  one being an 1100 percent increase over the prior year — and each time, they have rejected my claims and explanations with no valid or reasonable alternative explanations of their own. And, I am aware, that there are other Ramona residents out there who have received the same roughshod treatment, or “we will cut off your water,” as I have, with the board burying their heads in the sand, and refusing to listen to any reason or logic, whatsoever.

A few weeks ago, the board rejected a claim from a resident, who lives on a 1/4-acre lot, who had received a water bill for $2,763, claiming that she had used 400,000  gallons of water. As I have not seen the billing paperwork, I can only quote what I read in the Sentinel. But, does the board realize what a tremendously, hugely  amount of water 400,000 gallons is?

It would have been enough to flood the entire property to a depth of 4 feet!

It would have filled a line of highway tanker trucks a mile and a half long!

It would have been enough water to do 1,771 loads of washing, or 30 loads per day!

I would like to hear from any other Ramona residents who feel that they have been mistreated, or treated unfairly in the past, by the RMWD board. Contact me at 760-315-2912 or

George Newman is a Ramona resident.

Related posts:

  1. RMWD customer says high water bill due to faulty meter
  2. Water board censures one of its members
  3. Water board approves water, sewer rate hikes
  4. Director presses for water district redistricting options
  5. On behalf of farmers in water district

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Jun 28 2012. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “Anyone else think water board’s treated them unfairly?”

  1. Eugene

    Don't look like to many takers there Georgie boy! People here are smart enough to know that if you don't pay what your obligated to pay then they would have to. When you applied for service you knew full well you are obligated to pay for all water passing thru your meter, normal use, leaks or not. If everyone that went into RMWD complaining their bill was too high and they forgave them then they would just have to close up shop. Perhaps that's why you left good ole Canada because your agency went broke giving away the commodity. Also things are no different at RMWD than any other water district in California as they are governed by California Water Law. Pay for your water use so I don't have too. What do you think about that, eh!

    Also if your smart you'll distance yourself from thinking Ernie Garrett is a good guy or knows what he's talking about. He doesn't. He actually though believes as you do. The ratepayers and taxpayers should have to pay for everything he want, like taking a bus to MWD on the taxpayers dime that was meant for CWA personel, district representatives and board members, not some po dunk from SDCE with and inflated ego that actually did a lot of story telling in his commentary a couple of weeks back. He does good though at writing fiction.

  2. Lazy, plain lazy

    It is to bad that the Sentinel thinks this is news worthy. I guess it sells newspapers in a bad economy, but there should be some minimum journalistic standard.

    Will you print anything from anyone with a personal agenda without checking the facts? If the sentinel wants to be the national enquirer then just do it, please do not pretend to be fair and balanced journalist and then print junk…lazy, just lazy.

    I don't see this type of poor behavior from other reputable publications. More and more I go to the Patch for my news, now I recall why.

    They used to call this type of work yellow journalism. Too bad, I recall when this paper actually reported on local news and was a decent source of information.

  3. Eddie

    From the two posts above, I think the RMWD is starting to feel the pressure. Keep up the good work Sentinel.

    • Eugene

      Um Eddie, I don't think so! The laws the law. Except I guess it doesn't apply to you liberal bleeding hearts who think the government should subsidize you for everything you do. I'm sure your one of those who lost their home due to no fault other then your own and expect the rest of us to pick up the tab and you walk away scott free. This is no different. You are obligated to pay for what you use. End of discussion. Geogie boy needs to pay for his water use so I/we don't have to!!!!!

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