By VIVIAN EUZENT

When we opened our water bill from the Truckee Donner Public Utility District this month, we were curious why our bill had been “estimated.” This was not the first time we noticed our bill was based on an estimation. A website was listed on the bill where one could research the estimation but the link did not work. Imagine our surprise when we spoke to a very nice woman at TDPUD who told us our bill had been estimated rather than based on exact metrics for the last 10 months and that “thousands of people have the same problem.” She said the problem could be caused by crimped wires or the battery and had no idea when it might be repaired.

To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. In summer 2018, we had a significant leak in the irrigation system that was not discovered until the end of the summer, so we thought would should be using a lot less water. Additionally, this spring we installed an under-the-sink hot water recirculating system. This system transfers the cold water from the hot water pipe into the cold water pipe which returns it to the water heater to be heated again. With this closer to closed-loop water system, we are sure to have saved many gallons of water since then by not having to run our faucets while waiting for the hot water to finally arrive. We kept waiting to see a lower bill, but have actually been billed consistently for more water than we used last year.

After communicating with other Truckee residents via the Nextdoor — Neighborhood social media app, we learned many people were unaware their bills had been estimated. Not knowing your real water usage is a disincentive to conserve water. If the bill is always the same, people will not see the value of taking short showers, installing smart irrigation systems and low water plants, or washing only full loads of clothes or dishes. This is not just a personal financial issue; from a water conservation standpoint we cannot afford to create complacency around usage with these estimates. 

We recently received an email from TDPUD acknowledging that the batteries in the water meters have failed. While they were promised the batteries would last 20 years, the warranty was only for 10 years and prorated after that. We appreciate the fact that the board recently approved a contracted replacement program as their staff could not keep up with the large number of failures. Certainly TDPUD could have been more proactive in remedying the situation but at least there is hope for getting functioning water meters in the near future.

~ Vivian Euzent has been a part time Truckee resident since 1986, spending about half her time in the area. She has built trails for Truckee Donner Land Trust and Truckee Trails, participates most years on Truckee River Day, and is a longtime Sierra Watershed Education Partnership (SWEP) volunteer.