Update: The city stated on Sept. 22 in a press release that it has completed an investigation into South Cove residents’ water and has not found any incorrect meters in the area.
The city stated that it should have “anticipated that some customers in [the South Cove] neighborhood are above-average water users, and provided clarity on our rate structure, which incentivizes conservation.”
To read the full press release, visit issaquahwa.gov/waterbill.
Issaquah residents may have needed to have a seat and a glass of water — or maybe a less-expensive beverage — when they opened their latest water bills.
Many residents of the South Cove/Greenwood Point area of town reported being shocked to discover bills that had doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in value.
Residents say that they are used to having higher water bills during the hot summer months, but that this much of a jump is not normal.
“I had 46 centum cubic feet of usage and my bill was only $336 last year [for July and August]. This year, I used 42 [ccf] and my bill is $535.35,” said resident Carole Barceloux, who has lived in the same house for 31 years. “I about had a heart attack when I opened my water bill.”
South Cove resident Andrew Salmeri said that his own bill had only gone up about $40 in comparison to the July/August billing period last year, but that the bill of his sister-in-law down the street had gone from $220 last year to $590 for July/August 2017, and another neighbor’s bill was as high as $1,100. He immediately made a post in Nextdoor and received around 40 responses from other residents with similar sticker shock.
“By the response of people, they haven’t used that much water,” Salmeri said. “Ninety percent of lawns are brown — they just stopped watering them. There are only one or two swimming pools in the neighborhood. People haven’t changed their habits.”
“This has been pretty consistent for 31 years and all of a sudden this happens, with no explanation,” Barceloux said.
Salmeri contacted city officials, who were, he said, “very nice,” but have given a variety of different explanations for the hike in prices, from replacement of old meters to having to purchase extra water.
The neighborhood is in a period of transition right now. In a press release, the city explained that the customers “were recently transitioned to Issaquah service from the City of Bellevue.”
Jonathan Curto, who moved to Issaquah just last month with his wife, said that he was astounded by his first water bill and is very apprehensive of what is to come.
Curto said that there was no explanation on his bill about the amount of water that was used.
“I worry about the next billing cycle,” he said in an email. “Nearly [$1,000] seems completely insane … we won’t be able to afford water services with rates like that.”
South Cove resident Dan Matte measured out his water usage over the past three years and could not find a reason for his supposed multi-hundred-dollar increase in consumption over the past two months.
“Prior to the cut over to Issaquah, my highest usage was 30ccf and the bill was $322.88 in August of 2015,” he said in a Sept. 14 letter to the city. “My most recent bill from Issaquah is for 58ccf and $790.68. Our household habits have been pretty much the same since 2014 as the CCF data show. I monitored my water meter with all water turned off at my house and there does not appear to be a leak that is driving consumption (sic).”
South Cove resident Cameron DeBay said that he does not believe the issue is due to a math error on the city’s part or to leaks in people’s pipes. Instead, he said, the spike in rates can be explained by the city of Issaquah’s higher pricing system, which he said was never clearly laid out for customers.
“I certainly understand that the city can establish tiered pricing specifically to deter excessive usage, but the biggest frustration I have with this situation is that it wasn’t clearly explained that this aggressive tiered pricing existed and it is dramatically different than the Bellevue rates that this neighborhood had been paying for the last 10 years,” DeBay said in an email. “If I’d received the consumption rate chart comparing Issaquah to Bellevue rates in the ‘welcome to the City of Issaquah managing your bill’ letter… I most definitely would have been more conservative with water usage.”
“The scary part about this is, what is our next bill gonna look like?” Salmeri asked.
“The accuracy of your bill is very important to us,” the city of Issaquah stated in its initial press release. “Our team is actively investigating this issue, and will provide a status update early the week of Sept. 18.”
The city sent out an additional press release on Wednesday after the Reporter’s print deadline.
“The City’s rate structure incentivizes water conservation,” the press release explained. “While Issaquah’s rates compare favorably to Bellevue for consumption up to 18 hundred cubic feet (ccf), rates increase significantly for high water consumption of 19 ccfs or more. While the average water use citywide last summer was 12.35 ccf, many customers had higher usage during this extra-hot summer.”
The city went on to say that customers are welcome to request an investigation by calling 425-837-3070.