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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Bad, Part I



I alluded to some bad that has happened during my hiatus. Actually, a lot. First, here's some basics and a tiny taste of some of the negativity.

As I've mentioned, Boyfriend manages a small water company. It's a "mutual" so that means that all the customers "own" a piece of it. It's been run by the "good ol' boys" club for the past 40 years. They've never had a licensed operator to run the place and somehow managed to get away with it. Nothing was updated or upgraded. Band-aides were put on only when forced. Being so small, the state turned a blind eye. Until the last couple years. And the band-aides aren't working anymore.

Last year, the state finally inspected the surface water treatment plant and found some deficiencies - because it's 60 years old. Because of these deficiencies, when we have to use the river and run the treatment plant, we have to issue a boil advisory, per state law. Due to the drought, we've had to use the river to since March, about 4 months earlier than normal. We have 5 wells that, up until now, have provided adequate or near adequate water supply. But they are slowly running dry; two of them are dead in the water. One is consistent, and two are intermittent. If we don't get any rain this winter, by the first of the year we could be forced to use the river as our only supply. By law, we can only pull so much out of the river in a day; plus our plant is only designed to handle that maximum amount in a day. Any more than that and it just overflows and goes right back into the river.

Another problem is that when Boyfriend started, none of the customers were metered. Everyone pays a flat rate for what they believe is "unlimited water". No one has ever really been able to show these people how much water they waste. Earlier in the year, we instituted a strict water waste policy (well, strict for these people anyway), where if water was in the street, it's waste and fines are added to their account. We even made sure to take pictures to prove to people. They would argue about it while letting it continue to run in the street that they "pay their bill and therefore can use as much water as I want". Seriously.

A lot of changes have happened in a very short period of time. Boyfriend started last December, I started in April and the three Board Members have only been around a year or less each. They are all learning and have been surprised to learn how bad of shape the system is. They agreed to updating the water waste policy so that there were fines attached; they agreed to changing the due date (it used to be the 10th of the month and I suggested the 15th or 20th, they chose the 15th) and agreed that the due date should be enforced; they agreed to do public monthly board meetings, even though as a mutual, we don't have to; they loved the idea of a newsletter to go out with the bills; they want the water company to become a non-profit so we can pursue grant funding; they want meters installed.

All of us are aware that a lot of our customers have lived here for 20, 30 or even 40 years and they aren't used to the changes. They don't like and they don't want it. As one customer shouted during a special informational meeting about becoming a non-profit, "WE DON'T WANT METERS! WE DON'T WANT THEM!!" The anger over meters shocked the shit out of our panel. We had invited our attorney, our drinking water engineer from Ca Dept of Health, our waste water engineer from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and a gal from Cal Rural Water Association; who are all in favor of us becoming a non-profit.

So what are people concerned with? Rates. That's it.

They associate changing to a non-profit with rate increases. They associate meters with rate increases. They associate grants with rate increases. They associate loans with rate increases. They believe we are fixing the wrong things first. They believe we're spending money where we don't need to.

They want an all new system with a guarantee of zero rate increases. They want us to replace the distribution system first because the pipes are old. However, our drinking water engineer says that is one of the lowest things on their list to fund, while things like new surface water treatment plants, new wells, new storage tanks - those are priorities.

We actually had some guy who, even after the difference between a grant and a loan were explained, said he didn't want to pay back a grant and would rather pay back a loan. He believed that it's fair that he pays $40 a month for water and two people live in his house, and a few houses down there's a house with 10 people living in it and they only pay $40 a month of water. He didn't believe, however, that his bill would go up at all in order to pay back the loan(s).

We have people that tell us that meters are a complete waste of money and they are inaccurate. We've installed approximately 35 meters. In July, we found 12 houses that used nearly 1 million gallons of water. One house alone used 240,000 gallons; the previous owner's son tried to blame that on the water company - that my guys installed a meter and broke pipes and refused to fix them. But Boyfriend didn't some looking around and discovered that someone had purposefully set the toilet to run non-stop. Meters have also shown some people just how much they actually use. One guy, who has one of the nicest and greenest yards was shocked to see that in two weeks he had used nearly 30,000 gallons. After that we noticed he cut back a bit.

We have not decided on a rate structure; that will probably happen sometime next year once meters are completed. We've been using a nearby water company's rate structure as an example since they are smaller than us. We've discovered that some people's bills would actually go down; some would stay the same, and yes, some would go up. But we're finding there are people who don't think it's fair to pay for the water that they themselves are using.

While this is just some of the negativity, there is more. Much, much more.



8 comments:

  1. Why on earth would you want a constantly running toilet? Too bad they can't see how forgiving you are being from an Indiana point of view. Anyone living in Ft Wayne would say, what a bunch of spoiled douchebags.

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    1. The person's house was foreclosed on and they set the running toilet before moving out completely. Even though the house has a meter, they didn't have a different rate to pay. We're waiting for everyone to be metered to be fair; otherwise these spoiled douchebags will have an effing cow. They set it just to be assholes, that's all. Anyone who come in from out of the area or, like you, hears about it, they think the exact same thing - what a bunch of spoiled children. Some days, we just want to throw up our hands and say, "Fine. You think you know better, then you do it." But we don't.

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    2. I did suspect your bad had something to do with the water company - but this is of epic proportions. I agree with CW, what a bunch of spoiled douche bags. *shakes head*

      Or as my hubby would call it, sticking their heads in the sand. Do these people really think that it's going to be better by leaving things the way they are? Geesh...

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    3. Your suspicions were correct. These people really don't know what's best; as long as they have water coming out of the tap and their toilets flush, they're cool. They know it's old but they don't realize how out of compliance it makes us. We could be in some very deep shit soon.

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  2. a MILLION gallons? Are you kidding me? We have 60 gallons of fish tasks, 4 - 5 people in the house, do 4-5 loads of laundry every other day, cook, clean, and all the other things that come along with "living"... I am not wasteful, but I do enjoy my showers. My point? NO way in heck I'm using a million gallons... and while my water bill has doubled since living here ten years ago, so has my house occupancy.

    Bottom line... I pay for what we use.

    To think they are entitled to anything otherwise is asinine.

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    1. Granted, it was 12 homes that, collectively, used that much water - but it is still absolutely RIDICULOUS. Our problem is that because they never installed meters, people have this belief that they pay $40 a month for "unlimited water". They "pay their bill" so they "can use however much water they please and in whatever manner they please". I whole heartedly agree with you, it's an asinine way of thinking. But these are backwoods folks who, in the past, have literally given their state engineers (who only wanted to help) to finger and told the fuck off. So they did. But now they can't do that.

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  3. Apparently 400 gallons of water a day is the average for a family of four. I’m not good at maths, but by multiplying that 31 times for all the days in July and then a further 12 times to represent the 12 houses mentioned, it should still be almost physically impossible to use a million gallons. Even if you doubled the number to compensate for being in the dead of summer. Even if they built their own water park out back.

    The good news is these people should be easy to spot, because they’re probably being carried around on recliners while slaves pour ladles of water over their bodies every second of the day. They don’t even care their flesh is cracked and bloody from the process, ‘all you can use’ is a personal challenge and by god they’re going to win it.

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    1. We counted every house that used over 20,000 gallons in a month. Some houses used 60,000 and we even had a few that were over 100,000. Now, some of those houses had some VERY nice lawns and gardens; the greenest in town. They would also let a river of water run down the block. One house actually dumped their pool because they "thought it looked crooked".

      I love the image that you portray, because figuratively, that's pretty much it is. I haven't seen it in reality yet, but maybe next summer - if we don't get any water.

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