Water works

A couple of days ago, we received a water bill in the amount of $186.01 covering the 13,000 gallons of water OWASA claimed we had run through in the past 32 days, far more than the 3,000 to 4,000 gallons we normally use.

Immediately, we suspected Bill Strom.

But first we called OWASA. We explained to the customer service rep that we were bloggers, and perhaps because an image of the stereotypical blogger — sitting in the basement in his underwear, eating Cheetos and showering infrequently — came to mind, she agreed the amount might be a tad high. She pulled up our record and said she’d send a corrected bill. She said she’d had many calls similar to ours that day.

Sensing a conspiracy, we called OWASA’s public affairs administrator, Greg Feller, the next day. He handed us over to customer service manager Jane Showerman — she swears it’s her real name — who said the error was in our bill only. OWASA reads 20,000 meters a month, she wrote in a follow-up e-mail, and the error rate has been well below 1 percent.

Sometimes meter readers come back with a bad read, and OWASA sends them back out for a re-check, she said. “We get three or four we have to re-check in each cycle,” she said, but that’s out of 600 or 700 meters per cycle. Most errors are caught before the bill is sent out.

Last fall, OWASA inadvertently billed customers at the higher peak-season rate after summer ended. OWASA caught its own mistake when checking final bills of customers closing accounts. The utility issued a credit to the 500 or so customers who were overbilled. The error added about $20,000 to OWASA’s bank account prematurely.

So we’re awaiting our corrected bill, and as a precaution, just until we see what we really owe, we’re holding off taking showers.

— Nancy Oates

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  1. If you have a chance to call OWASA back, you should ask if they still have their low flow showerheads to give out. Greg gave me one over a year ago and it’s amazing how good it is while using a lot less water.

  2. j s

     /  March 4, 2010

    I called about 6 months ago and they stopped giving away shower heads and toilet flappers to save money. The only thing they still give out free are the little blue dye pills that help detect toilet leaks.

  3. Terri Buckner

     /  March 4, 2010

    Those low flow showerheads cost less than $5 at Lowes. Flappers are equally affordable. Small investment for big payback.

  4. j s

     /  March 5, 2010

    I’m fortunate in that my OWASA bill measurement is consistently “1” which I think is 1000 gallons and the lowest measurable quantity that they bill for. But, I also practice the ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow’ conservation adage.

  5. j s

     /  March 5, 2010

    Whenever I get a new showerhead I always rip out the little ‘california filter’ (I call it) that restricts the flow. I can’t stand that low flow stuff.