Over the last few weeks, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has received a number of customer calls concerning unusually high water bills. A thorough investigation of customer accounts by the DPU Customer Care team found that most of the increases were caused by a combination of watering from irrigation systems combined with the end of DPU’s summer sewer discount period.
Here’s how it works: Normally, wastewater charges are based on the volume of water a customer uses. That's why you will see on your bill the amount of CCF for wastewater is often the same as the amount of CCF for water. However, for a residential customer during the months of March through November, DPU bases the amount of wastewater CCF on either the customer’s average monthly wastewater volume for the months of December through February, or the actual amount of wastewater CCF for the billing period, whichever is less. DPU refers to this as the summer sewer discount.
DPU provides this discount because many customers during the months of March through November use water for activities beyond daily personal needs. Some of these activities include, but are not limited to, lawn and garden irrigation, car washing, swimming pool maintenance, and more. The water used during these activities does not make its way into the sewer system for treatment at DPU’s wastewater treatment plant, so DPU’s summer sewer discount eases the wastewater charge for customers during these months when water consumption from such activities is found to be the highest.
As a result, customers who irrigate far into November, and who have a meter reading period on their December bill which includes water consumed for irrigation, have seen a significant jump in the wastewater portion of their water bill. This is because the wastewater charge for the months of December through February is based upon actual water volume consumed. Many customers probably never noticed the jump before because they did not continue to irrigate their lawns and gardens late into the season when the summer sewer discount is no longer in effect.
If a customer experiences an increase in his or her wastewater volume during December as a result of activities such as lawn and garden irrigation, the customer may contact DPU’s Customer Care Center at 646-7000 to request an adjustment to their wastewater charge.