Dying Longton, Part Seven; About That Water Bill

Started by CCarl, January 14, 2023, 09:54:03 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


Dying Longton, Part Seven; About That Water Bill                      Copyright © MMXXIII CCarl

I'm a single-person household that typically uses about 800 gallons of water a month [until gardening season]. I know that because I know how much water my shower produces per minute, what my toilet bowl holds, and what the flow of water in each sink is. And I know what my water-use routine is. I do not have a washing machine or a dish washer. All my in-house water use comes from two faucets, a four-minute shower, and a toilet.

Yet, in December, with our cold snap, I was charged for two units of water, which means the meter said I used over 1500 gallons of water during the billing period. How did my water use nearly double? I ran a trickle of water from two faucets, 24 hours a day for 6 days, to keep my waterlines from freezing. But that did NOT double my use. I know that because I measured that trickle. That trickle took 40 minutes to fill a quart jar. That is 160 minutes per gallon, that is 2.67 hours per gallon. That is a 9-gallon per day trickle. For six days, that is 54 gallons. For two faucets trickling during the cold snap that is an additional use of 108 gallons. That is how I know my water use did NOT nearly double. But the meter reading for my property says it did.

In our hot and dry August of last year I watered my garden a lot. And I kept a record of how much I watered. Six times I watered 5 different parts of my garden for 40 minutes each. That is 6 x 5 x 40 = 1200 minutes. Six other times I watered 4 different parts of my garden for 40 minutes each. That is 6 x 4 x 40 = 960 minutes. My total water use for my garden that month was for 2160 minutes, or 36 hours. How many gallons was that? Not nearly as much as the City claims is the short answer.

I stuck the sprinkler I use in a 5-gallon bucket and turned the faucet on full volume. The sprinkler took 1 minute 43 seconds to fill the bucket. My water flow through that sprinkler is 2.9 gallons per minute. That is 174 gallons per hour. For 36 hours of garden watering I used 6262 gallons of water. I added in my usual 800 gallon per month in-home use, and was expecting a water bill for seven units of water, or roughly 7000 gallons. Compare that to the 11,000 gallons I was billed for using.

Go figure the math. I have not been able to figure it. And, yes, I have knelt and looked at my meter when no water was being used. I've watched for close to ten minutes. The little red triangle does not move. I do not have any leaks in my lines. So I will be going to the expense of installing my own water meter at my house before the coming garden season. I will be monitoring my water use from my home and comparing it to what the City charges me.

Yes, I wonder about the City meters. They are Neptune T10 units that record in gallons. Pictures of them are not available at Neptune's webpage [that I could find]. Here is a picture of a T10 at Walmart's webpage;  https://www.walmart.com/ip/Neptune-T10-Potable-Water-Meter-Direct-Read-Gallons/358100352

Here's a website with instructions on reading the T10;  https://www.flows.com/how-to-read-the-neptune-t10-size-34-inch-and-1-inch-water-meter-in-us-gallons-with-static-zero/

And here is a link to Neptune's product sheet for the T10;  https://metervalveandcontrol.com/pdf/water-meters/01-PD/01a-T10-58-1%20PRODUCT%20SHEET.pdf

And here is a website that mentions a study of inaccuracies at very low flow;  https://metervalveandcontrol.com/products/water/meters/cold-water-meters/positive-displacement/neptune-t10

No information is given on how low the flow must be to create an error, but the article says the nutating disc construction performed better at low flow than other models. That's relative, it could still mean an error at low flow, just a lower error than other models.

Here is a decent discussion of how a nutating disc records the flow of liquids;  https://instrumentationtools.com/nutating-disc-flow-meters-working-principle/

Notice that the last link mentions electromagnetism and a Hall Effect Sensor. Click that link and read about those sensors. Now you know all that I know about these suckers, and maybe more. Okay, but now we also know that electromagnetic sensors can be altered by an outside source of magnetism.

So here are questions that haven't been answered.
- How is the sensor effected by, say a cattle prod, or a strong bolt of lightning? Would those magnetic impulses cause momentary damage, or permanent damage? And I am NOT suggesting that anyone would put a cattle prod to the meters. How sensitive to external magnetism are they?
- Do they need to be calibrated? How often? Or are they pre-calibrated for the anticipated water volume in the pipe size they are fitted to?
- Will they read differently when our water pressure fluctuates from whatever full pressure is to partial pressure during peak hours of use? Will they fluctuate when fire hydrant use pulls so much water our residential faucets barely trickle? Can they recalibrate themselves for varied flows?

Somehow I cannot imagine any of those potential issues making my water use and the City meter different by what I've described above. Still, I'd like answers to those questions.

Another BIG question is, why the City is using the silly rounding system when it comes time to bill us for water. Why not just read and record the actual reading on the meter, and charge each of us for our actual use? That was mentioned in my last post about sewers. Why not just switch to charging for what we use, no more, no less, and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak?

Ask City Hall for some details and clarification on the rounding nonsense of billing. It works something like this. We all pay a flat fee of $29.75, [plus the $3.00 Reserve] for the first 1 unit of water we use [whether we use water, or not]. And because of rounding that first unit goes up to 1499 gallons. The way I understand it is, the City rounds down to one unit for any number of gallons of use above 1000 and under 1500. Then it rounds down to 2 units for anything over 2000 and under 2500 gallons, etc., as high as you want to go with water use. That second thousand gallon unit currently costs $9.00, as do successive units of water. Then likewise, anything over 1500 and 2500 gallons is rounded up to the next full unit.

In affect, a 1499 gallon per month user pays no more for water than a 300 gallon per month user, and a 2499 gallon per month user pays the same monthly fee as a 1501 gallon per month user. See anything wrong with that picture? I do. And if I'm wrong about this, please somebody correct me.

[Note: If you use less than 500 gallons in a month, your bill will have a zero for water units used. That is the rounding down weirdness. However, your bill will still say you owe $29.75 plus the $3.00 Reserve. Gotcha!]

Honestly, what is the sense or usefulness of the rounding? Could it be our meters are so fraught with misreadings, or variations, that rounding is used in an attempt to mask that variation? Talk to us Mayor. Oversight of the Water Department is your bailiwick. Please explain things fully and honestly. And I am not blaming, or accusing Longton government here. What may be happening is the way the public water systems have developed. Maybe wide variations are the norm. Maybe. On the other hand, my sister lives in a city of some 340,000 water users, in a greater metropolitan area of 500,000 water users. Every month, she receives a bill for the actual number of gallons she used, nothing is rounded. Maybe, the variation is there also, and is hidden among all those users by an inflated dollar rate. Maybe, but taxpayers in our community need to understand our situation.

I usually stay away from the word 'fair' because the woke world, in its collective nonsense, loves to use 'fair' interchangeably with equity, and equality. But I'll use it here. The rounding method of water billing is not fair. Stop the foolishness, record the actual meter reading from every meter every month, show the previous month's actual reading with the current month's actual reading on our bills, then charge us for the difference [our actual use]. That is fair. Period. Anything else becomes problematic, and smells similar to the sewer billing issue.

Why is it fair? Once again, because it reflects what we each use. The single-person household, and those who make an effort to conserve, will not be overcharged when they fall into what is now the "round-up zone". And those are typically the poorer folks in the community that have the greatest risk of being overcharged. Some folks may call that discrimination. See the previous post on Dying Longton for the way this fits in with our sewer payments.

When/if you review that previous post, you will see an outline of the basic bookkeeping needed to make changes to the water billing procedure as well. What did I say, it's something like fourth grade math? Do I need to apologize to fourth graders? I'm sorry! It is a win-win, once the change is made, I doubt any additional time per month would be needed to bill folks. The water users will know exactly what the City meters say they are using, and will have a clear option of how and where to reduce, if they need to economize. [And, if the City would choose to photograph the meter readings every month, the usual Longton gossip grinder of distrusting the meter readers would vanish.]

Then, the only unresolved issues about water billing would be; 1) meter susceptibility to magnetic influence, 2) the potential difference in meter readings between public and privately/personally owned meters, 3) is $9.00 per thousand gallons a low, reasonable, or excessive rate, and 4) is the City trying to generate income from the water bills to pay for other City functions, or is it just trying to break even with its water costs? Stay tuned for budgeting City government.

SMF spam blocked by CleanTalk