Utility Watchdog in San Diego

To Prevent Headaches, discontinue water service for vacant residences

We received a complaint from a consumer who had some trouble with the Water Department. This consumer owns two homes on one lot that share one water meter. Both homes were vacant for about three months. However, unfortunate timing meant that the consumer's water meter was broken (or dead in Water Department lingo) during this same time period. Instead of getting an actual read showing that the consumer was using little to no water, the Water Department estimated the consumer's bill using her previous year's use.

So for three months of no water use, the consumer had to pay the Water Department as if she was actually using the water. The Water Department refused to offer any adjustments on her current bill, even when the consumer presented evidence to show that the she had moved from one of the homes and that no one was living in either home. The only potential relief the Water Department offered was to measure the water consumption after it installs a new water meter and maybe offer a partial adjustment of the bill the consumer already paid.

Now, this problem could have been avoided if the consumer's meter had been fixed in a timely manner. It was only after UCAN intervention that the Water Department finally replaced the consumer's meter. Because the water meter was broken, the Water Department said that there is no way to prove how much water the consumer did not use. Why is the burden on the consumer to demonstrate that she didn't use water? Why didn't the meter reader report the broken meter when reading the meter? Since the Water Department failed to fix the meter, it gets the benefit of collecting revenue for water service it did not provide.

How can you avoid a situation like this? Discontinue your water service for the time that the home is vacant. This will not only prevent situations like this one, but also prevent you from having to pay the Water Department's water baseline fees. The Water Department charges you approximately $65 every two months for the mere privilege of being able to have water. To be honest, water department customers shouldn't have to go to such extremes as shutting off their water connection in order to protect themselves. But unless you have a well in your backyard, City of San Diego residents are stuck.

Questions about your water bill? Give the UCAN a call at (619) 696-6966.

Posted June 30th, 2010

About UCAN

UCAN has represented the interests of San Diego County utility customers since 1983. UCAN focuses its efforts on the rates and services of San Diego Gas and Electric Company, telecommunications utilities and the City of San Diego Water Department.