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Higher water bills in Lathrop reflect customer usage
Broken Sprinkler 4.jpg

Over the course of several months dozens of people reached out to Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal about what they claimed were unusually high water bills.

And after the City of Lathrop investigated all of the claims as they came in – including some that were made publicly at Lathrop City Council meetings – they have determined that all but one of the bills were the result of an increase in water usage by the customer.

According to Lathrop Finance Director Cari James, the city thoroughly investigated each and every claim that was made to the city – even going so far as partnering with public works to go out and investigate the circumstances surrounding the claims – and failed to find any evidence that the bills were incorrect or that the city errored on the totals that were sent to residents.

Only one case, James said, was as the result of a water leak, and several were found to be attributed to instances where a power reset caused an automated sprinkler system to reset and run without the knowledge of the homeowner.

“With the way that the system works now, we can actually look and see exactly when water is being used, and in some of these cases the rise in usage coincided with what appeared to be sprinkler usage,” James said. “We have worked with several residents to arrange payments so that they can continue service, but in cases like that they are still responsible for the water that they use.”

In one case, at a Lathrop City Council meeting, one Lathrop resident even claimed that the city’s water meters were defective and to blame for the unusually high water bill that the homeowner said could not have been correct.

According to James, who researched that claim with public works, the city’s water meters do have the ability to be defective – but only in a way that benefits the homeowner and not the city.

Because the meters actually turn when water flows through them, the only defect in the meter itself would come if the mechanism that measures of the flow of water stops turning – allowing water to flow through to residents without being logged, and therefore benefitting the ratepayer rather than penalizing them.

“It doesn’t work in such a way that it would measure water being used if it wasn’t actually being used,” James said. “We’re willing to work with people when these instances happen, but a lot of these increases were during the summer months when water usage typically goes up.”

That’s not to say that the City of Lathrop won’t cut somebody a break in the event of an emergency.

James said that if somebody does have a catastrophic water leak that leads to a drastic spike in water usage and requires a plumber to come out and repair, all that they have to do is prove to the city that such an event happened – like bringing in their plumbing bill – and the city will gladly average out their bill.

But there are stipulations to that.

“We wouldn’t be able to do that for anything involving sprinklers or landscaping,” James said. “Somebody that has a broken sprinkler that they take two months to repair is different than somebody that has a pipe in their home break.”

The City of Lathrop does provide a free water conservation kit to residents to help curb excessive water use which includes small, easy household additions that take care of most instances where water is wasted. The kits can be picked up stopping by Lathrop City Hall – located at 390 Towne Centre Drive – from Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and requesting one from the Public Works Department.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.