Have you tried to save 10% or more of your water only to get frustrated when the water bill comes and it is the same $$ amount as last month’s water bill?
Mark Robison of the Reno Gazette Journal researched what is going on. We are billed by the thousands of gallons we use. If you used 9,900 last time and 9,001 this time, they both get “rounded down” to 9,000 gallons. You do not get the rest for free. The truncated part gets added to your next month’s gallon total billed. If you continue to use less and less water, you will eventually knock down to 8,000 gallons billed. Of course, if you use 20,000 gallons a month, and you cut back 20 or 15%, you will see results faster.
See the article here.
This week’s question is about how the Truckee Meadows Water Authority calculates customer water usage.
Short answer: TMWA rounds to thousands of gallons because that’s the industry standard, it always rounds down, and, yes, sometimes you can’t tell how much you saved because of the rounding.
RGJ investigative reporter Anjeanette Damon once again provides this week’s question. She said she sometimes has trouble telling how much water she’s saved because TMWA’s bills are rounded to thousands of gallons. She wanted to know why.
As we discussed the issue, an example was formulated about why this matters: If you use 4,000 gallons in a month and you save 10 percent as requested, that means you used 3,600 gallons. Does TMWA round this up to 4,000 so it looks like you saved nothing?
To find out, TMWA was contacted. Kim Mazeres, director of TMWA customer relations. responded via email. Here is our back and forth:
RGJ: Why does TMWA round to thousands of gallons instead of finer detail?
TMWA: Industry standard is to bill in either increments of thousand gallons or hundred cubic feet. Gallons are easier for customers to understand, so TMWA (like our predecessor) bills in thousand-gallon increments. Also, billing in smaller increments is not practical. For example, one thousand gallons costs $1.72. If we were to bill by the gallon, it would cost $.00172 cents per gallon.
RGJ: At what point are the gallons rounded? For example, does TMWA say you used 2,000 gallons when you reach 1,001 gallons on your meter? Or at 1,500 does it round to 2,000?
TMWA: We always give our customers the benefit in billing — gallons are always rounded down to the nearest thousand. For example, even if the water meter registers 19,999 gallons for the month, the customer is only billed for 19,000 gallons. The other 999 gallons is carried over to the next month.
RGJ: Is there anything customers can do to get more exact usage figures such as call customer service? If not, does TMWA have any other suggestion for how people can tell if they’ve been successful in saving 10 percent if their usage stats aren’t refined enough to show it?
TMWA: Since all monthly bills have the same standard and are rounded down, all customer usage is calculated the same way. Customer Service does not have access to any finer detail.
If a customer uses a small amount of water, it is true they may not see their savings in a given month as it may take several months for their reduction to reflect on their bill. However, these are typically not the customers who are using water outdoors, as our average residential customer uses over 20,000 gallons of water a month in the summer. Whether or not they are saving 10 percent is readily identifiable on every monthly bill.