Water Meter Mandate | SierraSun.com

Water Meter Mandate

Jenny Goldsmith
Sierra Sun
Jenny Goldsmith/Sierra SunNearly half of Truckee's utility district customers will be able to monitor and pay for their individual water consumption by 2010, with the rest of the district falling into place sometime after 2012.
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Nearly half of Truckee’s utility district customers will be able to monitor and pay for their individual water consumption by 2010, with the rest of the district falling into place sometime after 2012.

In the early 1990s, a state mandate required all rural districts to install water meters on new development, but the legislation did not require the water purveyor’s to actually read the meters, said Steven Poncelet, public information and conservation manager for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.

“The purpose of the state mandate is to encourage water conservation and to understand residential water use,” Poncelet said.

The new legislation will now require public utilities to read and volumetrically bill those customers that had meters installed after 1992, Poncelet said.

In addition, the new bill insists that by 2025, the district must install water meters for its remaining customers, and charge each customer based on the actual volume of water delivered.

The estimated cost to the district to meet all the requirements under the new law is $10 million, but the cost for ratepayers has yet to be determined, Poncelet said.

“There’s likely to be some surcharge, but how much could be absorbed by the district and how much will be absorbed by the customers is still unknown,” he said.

Although the district has until 2025 to install water meters and commence billing for all its customers, Poncelet said delaying the project could create some equity issues.

“We need to figure out whether to expedite the implementation or to do it over time,” he said. “There are some options to push this out and minimize the costs, but that could minimize the conservation and customer service benefits.”

Truckee resident Andy Morris said while he may have to subsidize installation costs, the savings and conservation over time will be worth it.

“It doesn’t seem very fair if you’re paying a flat rate for water and you don’t use a lot, but your neighbor is watering their lawn everyday and paying the same as you,” Morris said. “I don’t mind the rate increase because I think it’s completely necessary to conserve water and I’m willing to do my part.”

The Tahoe City Public Utility District has already installed water meters in most district households, and expects to commence the new billing structure by April 1, 2009, said General Manager Cindy Gustafson.

“The monthly readings are giving customers a great deal of information not just on conservation and usage, but also leak detection,” Gustafson said.

Board directors still need to determine the exact billing process, but an upcoming rate study will help the district assess when and how to charge customers based on water meter readings, Gustafson said.

The North Tahoe Public Utility District implemented a metering system for all municipal and residential customers several years ago, and General Manger Curtis Aaron said they are willing to assist neighboring utility agencies with installation procedures and rate structures.

Truckee Donner Public Utility District staff will discuss meter installation options at the upcoming board meeting on July 2, and Poncelet said he encourages customers to attend and provide preliminary input.

“The 2010 deadline is coming upon us and we need to respond quickly,” Poncelet said.

By November of this year, the district hopes to install and read approximately 500 meters as part of the pilot program to gather cost estimates, monitor customer usage and test equipment, said Neil Kaufman, water system engineer.

The cost for the phase one pilot study is an estimated $266,000, which is included in the district’s 2008 budget, Kaufman said.