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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

About those Portland water bill options

We wrote last week about an ongoing survey that the Portland Water Bureau is running about how locals would like their water bills -- quarterly or monthly. An alert reader points out that if you like the monthly option, it's going to cost you pretty handsomely:

What the water bureau fails to mention (Jan 10 thread) is that they charge different base rates for monthly vs. quarterly billing. It ends up being about $150 more per year to get a monthly bill vs. a quarterly bill. What's not clear from their "customer-friendly" survey is whether they will continue to rob the customer or will change their base rates. here are the base charges:


Here's an example of $10,000 extra in the water bureau's pockets:


The city may be rethinking its water billing system entirely -- a scary thought, given its history -- and in the end, this differential may be changed. In the meantime, however, take note that the quarterly bill saves the customer some substantial change.

Comments (12)

I can understand that there are additional costs due to the increased number of meter reading trips and added printing and postage, but $10-12 per month does seem excessive. Since the monthly billing is optional, maybe they should read the meters quarterly and estimate the volume for the intervening months, saving the cost of added meter reading.

This is typical government make-work. How about reading the meter every two months, and averaging out the customers bills? How about laying off half the water bureau employees and passing those savings to the customers?

No, don't ask for any changes to the water billing system.

How many millions have gone in to getting a system that I think is working now, and who knows if it has the ability to deal with these changes. The last thing we need to do is to replace the system again.

Or how about a remote reading system like Clark County has:


Did you notice this part of the Clark Count page: "The cost of remote reading systems for water meters is too high, so a meter reader will continue to read water meters every other month."?

Did you notice this part of the Clark County page: "The cost of remote reading systems for water meters is too high, so a meter reader will continue to read water meters every other month?"

I *think* that means a vehicle with the remote reading equipment comes by instead of a Wi-Fi system. It's still way faster than lifting the lid and doing a manual reading of each meter.

Are asterisks more acceptable than quotation marks?

The point is that Clark County found it too expensive to go to a remote meter reading for water, they are only doing it for electric meters. (Which is currently done drive-by, but they plan on installing readers on power poles in the future.)

I think the big problem with water meters is there is no power there normally, so you would have to replace batteries.. Either that or the water meter would have to generate electricity to charge batteries while the wheel was spinning to measure the water flow. And that does sound spendy, and prone to problems.

I recently switched to a monthly payment plan for the water, but didn't see an increase in cost. Am I missing something?

Denver has done it for their water: http://www.denverwater.org/custserve/residential/amr.html

They say that 2 "long-lasting" AA batteries last 15-20 years, which I think is about as long as most meters last between servicing. So it seems to me that the city should just work it in to the normal meter replacement process.

Where did that increase in cost come from? The linked document says the exact opposite.

I see the $157 increase per year for "special sewer submeters" for monthly billing. 1(A). But two paragraphs down, 1(C), it says "When available, optional monthly billing will be at no charge." If this is that $150 increase, a re-read is probably going to help: it applies to submeters, not optional monthly billing.

A brief search on utility submeters seems to indicate that they are used for commercial owners who are dividing utility usage among their tenants. And, of course, this cost will be passed along so a tenant in an apartment complex could see a proportional increase (i.e. at a 50 unit complex, your will could rise 3.14 a year). My experience with smaller buildings (like those duplexs or quadplex "apartments") is that they have seperate, standard meters, so this change won't affect them.

Am I reading this right?

I can't seem to find the "pulse poll" on the Water Bureau's customer service page...is it disguised somehow?

Never mind--I found it. Didn't think to look in the sidebar...

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