Residential property owners are currently billed a flat rate on their tax bill based on lot size. (Most commercial properties in Discovery Bay are already on the water meter system.) By 2010, the town’s nearly 1,600 homes with existing meters will be billed for the water use indicated on the meters. The remaining residences – approximately 4,200 – will be converted by 2024.
Once the residential water meter program is implemented, homeowners’ water bills will no longer be included in their taxes.
Discovery Bay’s current commercial and irrigation fee – which will stand as the residential fee as well – is 77.7 cents per ccf (cubic feet). One hundred cubic feet translates into 748 gallons (the average daily use in California is about 500 gallons). That means the average homeowner in Discovery Bay, based on state statistics, will be paying roughly $100 per month for water.
Virgil Koehne, general manager for the Discovery Bay Community Services District (CSD), said the impending meters are part of California’s overall water conservation plan.
“The purpose of the program is to save and conserve water by being made aware of the amount of water people use,” said Koehne. “I think people will be surprised at how much water they really use.”
In an effort to get the kinks out of the system and find the best, most economic and efficient means by which to monitor water use, Koehne plans to implement a test run on 19 homes in the area of Discovery Bay West. Because these homes were built after 1991, when state law mandated all homes be equipped with water meters, using them for a beta test makes the most sense, as the appropriate plumbing is already in place.
Sometime this spring, those 19 homeowners will be notified of the test program, after which their meters will be activated and monitored for 30 days. Their water use will then be read and a mock invoice will be sent to the address showing their water totals and cost.
“Part of the idea behind the beta test is to let people know how much water they are using and to give them the opportunity to readjust their usage,” said Koehne. “Maybe instead of washing the car and letting the hose run they can get a different kind of nozzle that turns on and off, or instead of such long showers or prolonged irrigation water use, they can take another look.”
The test properties will allow the CSD to monitor water and experiment with recording and billing procedures. Possible options include outsourcing the reading of meters and the billing process.
“It’s a common practice (outsourcing) and we’re exploring that as a possible alternative,” said Koehne. “Sometimes it’s more cost efficient, and man-hour efficient, to simply have an outside company handle it. We’re taking a look at all our options.”
Koehne added that the test project also allows the opportunity to test the metering system and make sure it works. Which type of system will be used has not yet been decided, although Koehne said the computerized radio-read systems probably make the most sense.
“I’m thinking about how to keep labor and maintenance costs down because we are a small community and we don’t already have a system established,” said Koehne. “There’s a lot to do. It’s a challenge, but we’re up to it.”