Water woes

Dry summer and increased consumption add up to higher bills

Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – Residents are frustrated and worried about rising water bills, and are wondering why their statements show increases in consumption when they think their usage, rooted in habit, remains relatively the same.

Councilman James Trombley echoed similar concerns at a Sept. 19 study session prior to the City Council meeting. He said his usage was up 20 units from the last quarter, but he was out of town for 10 days during that time, and doesn’t understand why his consumption would go up.

“I don’t water my grass, I don’t wash my cars, I don’t have a swimming pool,” Trombley said. “I don’t have anything like that. I do laundry, I take showers and wash dishes.”

He said he checked his meter when he had no water running, and he used a dye stick to check his toilet tank for leaks.

Mayor Andrew Swift said there was no water rate increase for 2016-17, and a 4 percent increase for the 2015-16.

“I think what most people are going to have issues with, which is a concern, is since the last drought, or long-term, very hot, dry summer, in the 2014-15 range, that year was a 13 percent (rate) increase,” Swift said, “and the year before that was 11, and the year before that was 21.”

Swift said this summer residents used almost 75 million gallons, while last year at this time it was only 58 million.

Swift said water “isn’t cheap any more,” and if the meter is working, and is not defective, then somehow residents must be using more water.

Director of Public Works Jeff Webb said the city has tested many meters and is not aware of one that came back as reading more water than it should.

“They will either start to slow down and favor the customer, or they just stop working all together,” Webb said. “But this may be the time to plant the seed for new meters.

“They have much new tchnology out there – smart meters – and they come with web apps, so you could look it up on your phone or tablet and see exactly how much water you are using every five seconds.”

He said a customer’s water meter can be read from the shop – they don’t have to go out and read a meter, since the data is all web-based and on computer.

Engineer Souheil Sabak said Riverview’s water loss between the water coming from the Great Lakes Water Authority and the city’s home and business meters is between 9 and 19 percent, which is he said is normal.

Sabak said the the GLWA bases its water charges to a city based on proximity, which is the distance from the plant, and the elevation.

“So the higher and the farther you are, the more (GLWA) charges you per unit,” Sabak said. “For example, Melvindale, because they are right next to Detroit, they pay much less per unit to Detroit than Plymouth Township, because we are much farther, much higher.”

Sabak said the GLWA factors distance and elevation into a fixed fee, what they charge on a month basis, and the commodity rate is whatever they sell.

“When they found out they are not recovering that much anticipated revenue by the commodity sales, then they adjusted the fixed fee to make up the difference.”

Sabak said the fixed fee covers the operations maintenance of the system, their pumpage, their debt, and the elevation difference from the plant.
For more information, go to glwater.org.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)