Up The Creek
July 1, 2001
USCDWUA FAQWA (Frequently Asked Questions With Answers)
Q: Why do you charge me a monthly $23 fee for my tap, which is not installed, and has never used a drop of water?
A: Because we’re not really charging just for water.
Q: But I thought this was a water company. What else are you charging me for then?
A: All of the costs that go into keeping the Association operating, viable, and able to provide water when you are ready to use your tap.
Q: Then why not include those costs in the price of water delivered, and recover them that way?
A: Here’s how it would work: Our annual revenue requirement is $465 thousand. Divide that by the annual water sales of 87 million gallons. That’s just over ½¢ per gallon. Charging strictly for water used, 7,500 gallons (the amount included in the monthly flat rate) would cost $40 versus $23. The average active tap uses 10,000 per month which would cost $53 versus $25. You and other inactive tap owners would pay zero, of course.
Q: What’s wrong with that? An active tap costs the Association, whereas my inactive tap does not, because no water needs to be provided.
A: Actually, the active tap costs very little more. The portion of the budget which is affected by
the amount of water needed is only about 6%. In other words, 94% of our costs would still be there even if nobody used water.
Q: You mean you mark up the cost of water by, lets see, 94÷6 that’s 1500%?
A: Nope, remember we’re not just charging for water. For a complete list of Association costs, call us and ask for a copy of the budget. Better yet, come to an annual meeting and ask these questions there.
Q: All right, since you don’t exactly charge for water, and since water appears to be really cheap in the scheme of things anyway, please explain the rate schedule, which gets progressively more outrageous as my usage increases.
A: Usage? I thought your tap was inactive.
Q: No, I’m a different questioner. The other one gave up in disgust. I’m trying to find out why using 50,000 gallons per month should cost twice as much as 40,000 gallons.
A: To be frank, we are not thrilled about anybody using 40,000 gallons. We are twice as un-thrilled about 50,000 gallons. If all our active taps did that, the resulting demand would exceed: (1) our share of the capacity of the treatment plant, (2) the ability of our system to deliver it, and (3) any reasonable definition of “domestic water use,” which does not include irrigation. We need to limit system demand to assure water for everybody, including the presently inactive taps. Speaking of which, where is that guy, anyway?
Q: I’m here, and have been listening. Since you gouge others for high water use, why not apply that windfall revenue to us inactives, and give us a break?
A: “Windfall revenue” is a good description. It’s like the weather, undependable and unpredictable.
Q: New and innocent questioner here. Last month I used 11,111 gallons, exactly the same as the month before. But my bill was not the same. I think your computer interpreted that as a binary code.
A: No, there were just more days between meter readings in one of the months. Our billing software calculates gallons used per day, then multiplies by 30.5, which is our definition of a “month.” This is to offset the fact that anywhere from 27 to 34 days may elapse between meter readings.
Q: Then read them on the same day every month.
A: Such regularity would violate our whole attitude here at Up The Creek, which, as you have probably guessed, is strictly arbitrary.