19 Jan 2009

Stupid Water Bills

A few months back, I blasted East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) for their badly-designed water conservation scheme. Last week, I got my water bill for the past two months, and now I see that I was too kind.

EBMUD is really NOT doing a good job at handing the water shortage.

Here are some facts:
  • Our water and sewer bill is $125. Of this, $36 is variable (metered water use), and $89 is fixed.
  • Of the $36, we paid $26 for 13 units (748 gal/each), and $10 for "excess" use of 5 units.
  • That 100 percent surcharge works out to $5/month, i.e., one more latte/month.
First, I don't care about $5/month surcharges. EBMUD's "penalty" pricing is not incentivizing me, and I will continue to use as much water as I want.

Second, we used 145 gal/day, which is above our "allocation" of 89 gal/day. We are two guys who don't water the lawn. We wash clothes and dishes in the machine (about 3 loads/week) and take occasional showers -- I shower at the gym; Nick stays with his GF a lot. So where should our water "savings" come from?

Third, our allocation for the next two months is 99 gallons/day because EBMUD is giving us the same number of units (8), but the billing period is 60 instead of 67 days. (BTW, I checked the meter -- it has 1.00 unit accuracy!)

Why are accounting details driving water use quotas?!? It seems that EBMUD is more interested in a billing cycle than a sensible communication on water use.

Further, EBMUD has NO IDEA of how many people are in this house (a per capita allocation) and NO IDEA of our water habits. EBMUD just looked at historic use at this meter and knocked 20 percent off that use.

I am NOT a meter! I am a human, and humans need to have water budgets and charges posed to them in HUMAN terms.

Here's how (doh!)
  1. Count the number of people at the meter.
  2. Each person gets x gallons/day (say 50) at a cheap rate.
  3. Use above that rate pays a 100-200 percent surcharge.
Bottom Line: Water utilities can fail at execution because they are monopolies, and the penalty for failure is just rationing.