Your Water Bill Will Be Changing
In 2020 water meters were installed throughout Nepenthe at multiple connection points between the municipal infrastructure and Nepenthe’s private infrastructure. Soon, the Utility Service Bill will be transitioning from flat rate water billing to metered water billing.
The City advised Nepenthe that they will offer 12 months of consumption monitoring. The Association is receiving quarterly spreadsheets showing the monthly water meter usage per meter. This will help the Association prepare to add this expense to its operational budget.
During this period, the Association will not be billed a new flat rate nor a metered rate. However, any existing flat rate bills will continue to be billed as is for this 12-month period. After 12 months, metered billing will commence.
Nepenthe homeowners is will continue to receive their flat-rate water bill from the City until the invoicing switches over to the Association. Currently the rate is based on the number of rooms in the home, but ranges from $60 to $75 each month.
Once Nepenthe begins to receive the metered bills, the cost will be divided equally amongst 590 homes and be incorporated in the regular monthly assessment just as the cost is for the electricity to the lollipop lights or landscape maintenance.
Once the Association starts being billed, homeowners will no longer receive water bills from the City of Sacramento.
The big question is, “how much will dues rise?”. Based on calculations completed by Wood-Rodgers Engineering, the dues could be $50-$75 higher once the water costs are factored in. The most recent usage report from the City covers part of April through January 2022 and, while there are inconsistencies in the usage data, the numbers corroborate the Wood Rodgers findings.
Obviously, this is important information for homeowners and potential homeowners to know, but at the end of the day, it is mostly a matter of shifting the money paid by homeowners from an individual payment to the City to having it included in the dues. It is anticipated that the 2023 Nepenthe operating budget will reflect the change.
Keep reading for a little history behind water metering in Nepenthe…
In 2016, the Board of Directors voted to request individual meters at each address in the community. At the time that decision was made, it was not clear what the actual physical requirements would be. That changed in 2018 when the designers for the project contacted the association to start laying the ground work.
At that time, management met with Michelle Eckard, engineer with Carollo Engineers, under contract with the City of Sacramento, to discuss the installation of water meters in Nepenthe as mandated by the State of California. Per City code, there were certain requirements made known to Nepenthe in order to install individual meters at each unit. Michelle attended the April 2018 Open Session meeting to provide the Board with answers to questions about these requirements and the potential costs to the Association.
The Board had two options:
Option 1: Install meters at the connection points between the public water system to the private association-owned water system. The cost of water would be borne equally by the owners in their monthly assessment payments to Nepenthe.
Option 2: Install individual meters at each address within Nepenthe. The association would be required to undertake necessary pipe exposures and improvements before the City would install the meters. The association would also record necessary easements for the utilities as required. The owners would continue to pay the City for water.
On April 4th, 2018, the Board made the decision to approve option 1 and install meters at the connection points only.
The Board then contracted with Wood Rodgers Engineering to perform an analysis of both options. The Board felt that, although the decision had already been made, it was their due diligence to ensure it was the proper decision by relying on the advice of experts as Civil Code requires them to do.
Kevin Gustorf of Wood Rodgers completed the analysis and held two “Water Meter Forums” to present the findings and answer questions from the owners. The report and presentation can be seen at the bottom of this page.
The firm was also retained to inspect and report on the existing conditions of our water system and make recommendations for optimal meter installations that would provide the most water cost savings. Their recommendations were followed by the Board and the final agreement between the City and Nepenthe was executed in April 2019.
Construction to install the meters took place in April of 2020.
Now, on to the questions:
Q: Why are the meters placed in those particular locations?
A: The City requires that all meters be installed above ground whenever possible. The only time they are installed below ground is when the existing land features make it impossible to install above ground. Examples of the features that make above ground installation impossible are roads or mature large trees. The meters are placed at the point of connection between the city water line and the association’s private line.
Q: Why are the meters so ugly?
A: While they are ugly, they can be painted dark green or covered with a backflow blanket. The association can also install landscaping to shield the view. In fact, the directors approved a contract for landscape improvements on traffic islands at their April 8 meeting- look for more information elsewhere in the April 2020 newsletter. Like the transformer boxes that belong to SMUD, we may find that after time, we don’t even “see” the meters.
Q: Is it true that if the association had opted for individual meters, we wouldn’t have to look at this above-ground equipment?
A: That is partially correct. While individual meters would have been below-ground in the alleys, other equipment like valves and backflows would have been installed in various locations above-ground. This is a normal part of a modern water system.
Q: How will I be billed for water when these meters are installed?
A: For a period of a year after the installation, owners will continue to be billed by the City of Sacramento under their old rate. The association will receive quarterly reports from the City showing the actual water usage from the meters in the community. This information will be shared with the homeowners in The Nepenthe News when it is received. The purpose of the report is to help the association budget for the increased water costs. After the one-year period, the association will received the invoices and the homeowners will cease to be billed for water by the City. The goal is to adjust the monthly dues for the homeowners for 2022 to adequately cover the cost of water for the association, including common area irrigation and the water used by each unit. That year-long period will yield enough information to create an accurate budget.
Q: Will the association bill the owners based on unit size?
A: No, the CC&Rs, Article VIII, Section 8.2(e) mandates that all regular assessments be shared amongst units equally. Owners may feel that this will not encourage water conservation within the community or that some households, by virtue of having less occupants per unit, are carrying a disproportionate share of the burden. It is documented that outdoor irrigation is usually a large portion of a residence’s water use. As the homes in Nepenthe have fairly small fenced patios, this common denominator suggests that water use per unit is more uniform than it may appear regardless of the number of occupants. It can also be noted that most of the homes in Nepenthe are occupied by a pair of individuals. Many are occupied by single occupants and the smallest portion of homes are occupied by three or more individuals. This demographic supports the idea that the water use is fairly uniform throughout the community.
View the full presentation here: 2019-01-05 Wood Rodgers Presentation on Water Meters
View the Water Meter Installation Study / Report here: Wood Rodgers Water Meter Study – Report
View the Water Meter Optimization Analysis: Nepenthe-Meter Opt Analysis