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The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

What are the things that puzzle, enrage, delight and tickle you as you go about your life in Madison?

The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby BillEKlub » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:12 am

The innocuous envelope with the light blue return address and anatomically correct skyline doesn't usually provoke profanity but this, this is a different kind of something.

Sure, we run the water for the usual items: personal hygiene, cooking, some plant watering but we pretty much gave up on watering the lawn after about the 4th of July. What was the point? Brown and crusty is brown and crusty, running the sprinkler wasn't going to fix that.

So when I scanned the full page bill, noting the various charges: Water Base Charge (having a meter costs $26.50 a month), Water Consumption, which is what I really thought this bill was all about was a whopping $245.23. If it had ended there, I would have furrowed my brow, vowed to take a shorter shower today and moved on. Unfortunately, that $245.23 was for water on the way in only....there is a Sewer charge based on Water Use that "contributed" another $209.32 for that same water on the way out. Plus another $54.35 for the meter. Tack on Land Fill Remediation for $6 and Public Fire Protection for $9 and for those keeping track at home, I have a total of $550.40 Holy Crap. Oh, wait: Storm Water Base Charge: $5.45, Storm Water Impervious (more on that in a minute) $45.95 and last but not least, Storm Water Pervious: $12.92 for an astonishing grand total of $614.72. How did this happen? And just exactly what did I get for my Pervious/Impervious Storm Water charge?

First things first: The Storm Water Impervious charge is for pavement and roof square footage that sheds water (that's the "impervious" part). This gets charged at a higher rate per square foot than the "pervious"...the lawn and garden where the runoff from the impervious presumably pervs, uh, soaks in. The Storm Water Base Charge is just kind of a "nah nah boo boo" charge simply because the can.

I am guessing the nice folks at the Madison Water Utility are going to be answering these same questions a lot today.
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby Henry Vilas » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:16 am

What was your bill total for the previous six month cycle?
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby Abdul » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:00 pm

People demand services and hate taxes. The result are fees that get piled on the water bill.

In the case fo the stromwater fee, that fee transfered costs off the property tax and on to the fee. Large commercial and industrial facilities pay a greater proportion of the fee than do homeowners. That fee is a rare example where the cost of government was transfered from the individual homeowner to the corporations. The reverse tends to be tru at other levels of government.
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby gargantua » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:13 pm

My two person household generated a $322 bill that made me want to gag, so yours is seemingly beyond the pale. And, I didn't water my lawn at all.

I did first notice a large increase when I got my statement six months ago. At first I was concerned that I had a leak somewhere, but then found out that there had been a significant rate increase last year.

I also remember reading that the water utility was concerned about getting less revenue because people were using less water (this was maybe 2 years ago), and thought they'd have to raise rates because of that.

Talk about perverse incentives.....
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby psforsberg » Wed Nov 09, 2011 1:56 pm

So based on your $245.23 consumption bill, you used 123 Ccf of water in six months!? There's your problem! You either have a whole village living in your home, have a serious leak or are just plain using too much water.

Our 2-person household used 18 Ccf on our last 6-month bill ($35.78 for the consumption portion of the bill) and we don't take any extraordinary water-saving measures. We have one water efficient toilet because our old toilet had a leak that jacked up our bill and needed to be replaced. We took advantage of the water utility rebate to buy the new one. Our shower head may or may not be low-flow, I'm not sure. Our total bill for both of the last 2 billing periods came to about $188.
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby Dust Mite Rodeo » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:34 pm

Do you leave the water running while you brush your whale?
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby wuwater » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:15 pm

I am one of those "nice folks at the Water Utility." Actually, the water base charge is $26.50 for the 6-month bill, not per month. The water volume usage would be an average bill for a family of six for 6 months. Our customer service representatives spoke with the poster this morning and found that his current usage is back down to a more normal range for his family size. His higher bill for the past six months is likely due to the lawn watering he did during the summer.
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby snoqueen » Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:25 pm

I went on line to see my billing history since 2006. http://www.cityofmadison.com/water/
then click on MyWater at the right, in blue.

You have to register, and to do that you'll need your account number and customer number, which are on your bill.

My history didn't show a big increase. In fact, it looks like this, starting in early 2007:

8/24/2011 $.00 $148.22 $148.22
2/22/2011 $.00 $158.23 $158.23
8/24/2010 $.00 $147.45 $147.45
2/19/2010 $.00 $144.07 $144.07
8/24/2009 $.00 $126.29 $126.29
2/23/2009 $.00 $125.73 $125.73
8/25/2008 $.00 $123.12 $123.12
2/22/2008 $.00 $119.71 $119.71
8/27/2007 $.00 $119.92 $119.92
2/22/2007 $.00 $112.37 $112.37

(The last two columns are the same because they are Current Bill and Bill Total and I always paid in full.)

This is for a household of one person, and I don't water my lawn. I got a new low-water-usage toilet this year which might account for the decrease in the newest bill.

My most recent bill, which I have on paper here, is from February and has the storm water pervious/impervious charges. If you feel these are in error on your bill you can submit a request to get them changed, which I did successfully at my old house because I had a pervious driveway installed replacing an impervious one.

The charge is based on the square footage of your property which is lawn or garden (pervious) versus the percentage that's impervious, which is your sidewalk/driveway/paved patio etc. If you feel the areas on your bill don't fairly represent conditions on your property, why not pull up the Google Earth view and recalculate the areas based on what it shows? I think I did it with AutoCAD but you could do the same thing using a grid system or simple geometry with a few on-site measurements. I'm not sure how they handle stuff like a patio that drains into the back yard lawn not the driveway, but they surely have guidelines to follow, and if you feel your allocated percentages make no sense it won't hurt to ask or to appeal.

The idea behind this charge is to have the property owner pay for his/her usage of the storm water system based on the area draining into the street. They want to minimize storm water runoff and the way that's done is increasing the landscaped area where the water soaks in. I got my runoff percentage close to zero at my old place, so it can be done. I don't see why this is a perverse incentive.
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby kurt_w » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:24 pm

snoqueen wrote:I don't see why this is a perverse incentive.


I think the "perverse incentive" was the idea that if people used less water the city would have to raise rates. That would, perversely, reward the populace for wasting water and punish them for conserving (if such a thing were to happen).
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby eriedasch » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:48 am

psforsberg wrote:Our 2-person household used 18 Ccf on our last 6-month bill

That is very good.

My two person household used btw. 21 and 30 ccfs over the past ten years. We have an older washing machine and a marginally efficient dishwasher that both get used often. We do not have water efficient toilets. Never water the lawn.

At least there is opportunity for improvements. Replacing the toilets just moved up my home improvements list.

When I first moved in it was 3 person household with an old toilet that leaked, we used over 60 ccfs. I thought that was a lot.
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby roadkill bill » Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:35 am

Just checked my usage rates, and the October bill is higher than the April bill every year, presumably because I water the garden. Not excessively, but I do grow veggies, and they need a little help here and there over the summer. I think I take more showers in the summer as well - sometimes multiple times per day - since that is one of my principal ways to get and stay cool when we have a heat wave. Besides, you just don't stink as much in winter.

Got a new toilet last year, and that does seem to have brought down water usage a bit, but not all that much. Sort of surprised. The old one must have used 10 gallons per flush. New one is 1.2/flush. Thought about getting a dual flush (more for solids than liquid), but they are still pretty costly, and you can accomplish the same thing with the California Rule: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

One person household use since 2006 varies from 8-13 Ccf per six months. Not sure what I was doing a few years before that, because the usage was super high on a few bills. I think I had a leak in that old toilet.

Lesson to those out there try to save a few bucks: A leaky toilet or faucet really does add up.
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Re: The Water Bill Came Today....WTF!!!

Postby TheBookPolice » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:40 pm

roadkill bill wrote:Thought about getting a dual flush (more for solids than liquid), but they are still pretty costly, and you can accomplish the same thing with the California Rule: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

$25 or so at Home Depot will purchase you a dual-flush converter that will allow you to live by 20th century standards of hygiene.
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