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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
George Newman is a Ramona resident.
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