As the weather gets warmer and summertime approaches, many utilities face the annual dilemma of how to fairly deal with customers who fill pools or have irrigation systems. Clearly, the customer is responsible for any water used to fill pools or irrigate lawns and gardens. Sewer, on the other hand, is viewed differently by various utilities. In today’s issue, let’s take a look at some ways that utilities deal with this….

The hard-line approach

Some utilities take the position that their sewer rates are based on the water consumption and therefore make no allowance for sewer adjustments, either for leaks, filling pools or irrigation. This hard-line approach seems a little harsh to me.

The once a year adjustment policy

Other utilities will grant a sewer adjustment for the volume of water required to fill the customer’s pool once each year, based on the customer providing proper documentation of the pool’s size and volume. A policy such as this is a fair way to deal with filling pools, but does nothing to address irrigation usage.

Sewer cap based on non-summer average usage

A few utilities will cap their customer’s sewer usage based on the customer’s average non-summer water usage. For example, the maximum sewer usage for the months of May through August might be based on the average usage for the other eight months of the year. Some utilities with a policy like this offer the sewer cap to all customers, while other utilities offer it only to customers who specifically request a sewer cap. A policy such as this can actually work to the utility’s disadvantage if the customer’s household water usage increases over the summer.

Separate irrigation meters

Another approach to dealing with irrigation usage is to require the customer to install a separate irrigation meter. In this case, the customer is charged only for water that passes through the irrigation meter. However, all usage for the home water is subject to both water and sewer charges. The customer is responsible for any costs associated with installing the irrigation meter and pays two monthly minimum charges, but this is the most equitable way, for both the customer and the utility, to determine irrigation usage that is exempt from sewer.