WHY WATER SUB-METERING IS NOT A GOOD IDEA FOR ASSOCIATIONS: PART TWO
When speaking with many community managers, I often hear this: “We will just install water sub-meters” in response to their ever increasing water and sewer utility costs. However, this choice is much more complicated and treacherous than it seems.
This article will explain why water sub-metering is not a good idea for associations. In our Part One of this series, we focused on sub-meters for domestic water and for mixed use (domestic and irrigation) water. In this part, we will focus on sub-meters for irrigation-only water. In other words, eliminating sewer service charges for irrigation water or reducing sewer service charges so that they reflect only the amount of water returned to the sewer service system, excluding water used for pools, spas, boilers, HVAC systems, cooling towers, water features and landscaping. We will explain why these sub-meters are not desirable or cost effective. Here’s why:
1) COST OF SUB-METERS:
LADWP customers must purchase their sub-meters from the City of Los Angeles, and most other water districts only allow sub-meters purchased from their vendor approved lists, and the cost of these sub-meters is prohibitive, especially for 2″ and larger size sub-meters.
2) EXTENSIVE AND TIME-CONSUMING APPLICATION PROCESS:
The paperwork and approval process is extensive, expensive, time-consuming and exhaustive. Here is an example of the application process from LADWP.
3) EXTENSIVE AND COSTLY PLUMBING PROCESS:
There is only one sub-meter allowed per DWP metered line. This means that unless all of your irrigation lines are going in the same direction off of your main or mixed use water meter, it will be necessary to pay for some rather extensive plumbing to meet most water company’s sub-meter requirements. LADWP’s sub-metering requirements , as stated: “Is your irrigation plumbing totally separate from your inside plumbing? If not, you will have to rearrange your plumbing to separate the tributary and nontributary uses.”
4) YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE SUB-METER. THE SUB-METER BELONGS TO YOU.
- You will be required to maintain it in good operating condition per the manufacturer’s specifications because this is your private water sub-meter.
- You will be required to periodically calibrate the private sub-meter per manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations and send the results to the City.
- You must install the private water sub-meter in a location in front of the building that is readily accessible to the DWP meter readers.
- The meter must be bought from DWP and installed as a horizontal installation. See note 1 above and diagram on page 4.
- If your sub-meter is malfunctioning and you do not take the necessary steps to correct it, you will be put back on the City’s standard billing system. That system bills you SSC based upon 93% (commercial class) of delivered water.
- If at anytime you decide to discontinue being charged based upon the private sub-meter readings and revert to the City’s standard average sewage system, you will not be allowed back on the private water sub-meter billings until one year has elapsed. 8. You must sign a release form that indemnifies the City from any damages (physical or financial) which may arise from the installation of the private water sub-meter at your premises. See LAMC 64.41.03(g)3ii.
5) YOU WILL BE PAYING HIGHER SEWER FEES IN THE FUTURE FOR ALL WATER THAT IS NOT REGISTERED BY THE SUB-METER, MANY TIMES RESULTING IN HIGHER OVERALL WATER BILLS.
Too many times we get calls from managers and community associations that installed irrigation water sub-meters and subsequently thier water bills increased. At this point, there is nothing that we can do for them, as the sub-meter is now a permanent fixture on their future water bills. The reason for this is that most water companies assume that only 80% – 95% of the total water consumption for all customers is being returned to the sewer system for processing, and that 5% – 15% is being used for boilers, cooling towers, pools, spas, water features, landscaping, etc. However, when you separate your domestic and irrigation water, you no longer qualify for this built-in return-to-sewer factor reduction and you are billed at 100% sewer fees for all domestic water from that point forward.
Here is an example: Let’s say that the sewer fees are $5.00 per unit of water and the water fees are $3.00 per unit of water. (I.e. generally sewer fees are higher than water fees on the west coast) Now, ABC community uses 10,000 units of water in a calendar year – 2,000 units of water for irrigation to common-area landscaping, pools, spas, water features, etc. and 8,000 units of water for domestic use. On their old fee structure, they would have been billed 10,000 units of water total x $3.00 per unit or $30,000.00 in water fees and 10,000 units of water total x $5.00 per unit or $50,000.00 in sewer fees = $80,000.00 in one year. However, after the installation of the irrigation water sub-meter, the water company increases their sewer rates for this customer’s domestic water to $6.50 per unit of domestic water and $0. 00 for irrigation water. On their new fee structure, they are billed 10,000 units of water total x $3,00 per unit or $30,000.00 in water fees and 8,000 units of domestic water x $6.50 per unit or $52,000.00 in sewer fees, for a total of $82,000.00 in one year – $2,000.00 MORE than before the irrigation water sub-meter!
6) HIGHER RISK OF INCORRECT WATER/SEWER BILLS.
After the installation of an irrigation water sub-meter, the subsequent water utility bills are supposed to deduct the sub-meter readings from the main water meter readings, and only bill sewer service charges for the difference, but, in actuality, oftentimes we have audited these subsequent water utility bills and found that the sub-meter readings are added to the main water meter readings, and the customer is now paying higher water and sewer service charges every month!
There is another way to not only eliminate sewer service charges for your water that is not entering the sewer system, but also reduce your domestic water sewer service charges! A utility audit can determine whether or not you would qualify and benefit from an elimination of sewer service charges for irrigation water and/or a reduction in sewer service charges for domestic or mixed-use water. This is part of a utility audit, and costs you nothing! Best of all, your future water and sewer bills are lowered forever – you will never be returned to the higher sewer service charges, or be billed for sewer service charges ever again if an exemption is granted! In addition, your future water and sewer bills will be billed correctly, with no risk of costly mistakes due to sub-meter readings. This is the fastest, no-risk method to reduce your overall water and swer expenses without spending a penny!