"I had to kill all my flowers."
“It’s insane just how beautiful it was back here, I had butterflies, flowers everywhere and was being mindful of how much water I was using, even cutting out one shower a week to make up for it… but after I got my water bill, I had to kill all my flowers because I thought I couldn’t afford it.”
The dirty water meter
Paul lives in a three-unit building on West Point Loma in Ocean Beach, along with three others. His water bill generally runs about $200 a month ($400 for two-month billing cycle). His back yard is an oasis of cactus, succulents and other drought tolerant plants, including a few, now dead, flowers.
“We don’t use a lot of water, so when I got the bill for $1,176 I thought, wow, it must be the flowers, but then I went out and checked my meter which was unreadable due to all hard dirt on it,” he told me.
He called the city of San Diego Public Utilities Department to inquire about their reading.
Water meter cleaned off
“They said it was read on September 17,” Paul explains. “Lies…my meter was so caked in dirt I had to take a sponge and scrub it off, you could barely see it, and they claim he’s been reading my meter? The previous read he said it was at 344 HCF’s and this time it’s at 442, which brought on the high bill. So I go out there and read it and it’s at 344-the same as what he said it was two months ago, so it sounds like he’s fudging somewhere. They kept insisting that ‘he read it on the 17, sir’, I said there’s no way, there’s no way that meter has been read in over a year.”
Paul showed me his water meter as well as his neighbors, which is located directly next to it, for comparison.
“Everyone I spoke to at the water department, they keep saying ‘we don’t estimate, we don’t estimate’-so I asked, what do you do when you get a meter like mine, that’s dirty and she said ‘well we get a skip-code.’ She said my meter's been read, and there’s no skip codes on mine. I was like, what?”
According to the city's website: Meter readers may skip readings for a variety of reasons, including when a meter is broken, inaccessible, or when the meter reader is unable to physically locate the meter. In cases like these, entering a trouble code into the handheld device will generate a work order for other PUD work crews to address the problem. Prompt fulfillment of the work order prevents the ongoing need for estimated reads.
“There’s no way he read mine three days ago with all the dirt that was on it, no way. And if he didn’t, why is there no skip code? That’s when they told me said that an investigator was going to come out. I don’t know when, though, but I’d sure like to know what happened so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”