by Pam Zubeck
No, this story isn't about information leaks. It's about people who turn a garden hose on and forget about it or find their toilet's been running since they left on vacation three weeks ago. They'll be heartened to hear about one thing the Colorado Springs City Council did yesterday.
Council adopted a new water leak rate adjustment that allows city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities to discount the amount of water wasted by such goofs starting April 1. Under the old policy, Springs Utilities couldn't do anything, because tariffs are tariffs and they're set in stone.
Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman says in an e-mail that more than 300 customers tell Utilities annually they've had a water leak resulting in a high water bill.
A common problem is a continuously running toilet, which is sometimes difficult to detect because water flows out of sight into the drain. Since water is billed by the amount going through the customer’s meter, a leak can result in thousands of cubic feet of water being used without the customer’s knowledge. That, in turn, can bring a water bill that's hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more than it should be under normal conditions, Grossman says.
"The proposed adjustment rate allows Springs Utilities to adjust the customer’s bill for qualifying leaks," Grossman writes. "First, the water leak needs to be confirmed by Utilities. The amount of the leak also needs to be determined."
—Utilities can adjust a residential customer’s bill using the lowest (Tier 1) water rate. The current residential rate for 2,500+ cubic feet of water used in a month (Tier 3) is 6.91 cents per CF. The new program would allow Utilities to reduce the rate charged to the Tier 1 rate of 2.51 cents per CF, a difference of 4.4 cents per CF compared to the tier 3 rate. (one CF = 7.48 gallons.)
—The adjustment cannot exceed two billing periods and a total of 20,000 CF.
—A maximum of two adjustments per customer can be made in a three year period.
—For business customers, Utilities can reduce the commodity charge from the suspected leak amount by 50 percent.
The new program is estimated to cost $120,000 annually for water adjustments and $18,000 for wastewater adjustments.