A South Surrey woman whose water bill increased more than five-fold in the space of four months – to the highest it’s been in four years – says the city’s explanation that it was “guesstimated” based on previous consumption is “just absurd.”
“I might as well have three Olympic-sized swimming pools out here, that’s about what it works out to,” said Betty Halford, of a bill totalling $406.63 for 229 cubic metres of water.
“It was totally against what I had been getting… right off the grid.”
But while City of Surrey officials say it’s unfortunate the bill had to be estimated, the description of it being a “catch-up” is accurate.
“Unfortunately, this probably was estimated four times,” said Suzanne Sillion, the city’s manager of financial services, noting Halford’s meter – which was replaced in March because its touchpad was broken – couldn’t be read for more than a year.
“This is what happens when they’ve been estimated. It seems to be always low. When we finally get the read in properly, there’s always catch-up.”
Halford said she has lived at her home since 2005. Paperwork she’s kept over the years shows her water bill hasn’t come close to what was due this month since the tab hit $416.46 in September 2012. The following September, it dipped to $275.19.
“I know that’s when we enjoyed the garden,” she said. “I was watering my lawn at that point.”
In the years since, Halford said she has taken pains to conserve water. As well, her lawn is more patio than grass, her house has ‘smart’ toilets, and an injury often keeps her in bed.
Her water bills in 2014 and 2015 ranged from a low of $61.71 in May 2014, to a high of $94.60 in September of the same year.
“I really feel they certainly owe me an adjustment on (the latest) bill,” she said.
According to the bill, Halford used 195 cubic metres of water over 69 days ending May 22, and 34 cubic metres in the following 52 days.
Sillion said records show Halford’s consumption is currently averaging .7 cubic metres per day, and that her July 2016 bill was based on actual consumption.
“To me, it’s a reasonable water consumption, it’s just there was a catchup, that’s why it all came at once.”
The old meter had been in place since 2003, she said.
“As meters age, they actually have a tendency to slow down and (it appears) you consume less,” she said.
“It had been estimated and that’s the problem.”
Halford said she is certain her water use has not increased and will continue to keep a close eye on her bills.
“I know my consumption is down, but I think they’re looking to justify their means,” she said. “I’m curious to see what this new meter does.”