Water Meter Installation Project

Friday, April 10, 2020

Water meters are top of mind for everyone in Nepenthe right now. Between the water shutoffs, the construction noise and the unsightly meters themselves, it’s hard not to be aware of their installation.

This is a good time to run through the history of the meters to date and to address the most common questions that have been posed this week by the homeowners.

First, little history…

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 on the community website at www.NepentheHOA.com/water-meter-installation-project.

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.

started in February to locate existing utilities. Construction to install the meters began in earnest this week, April 6 through 10, 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. Let’s not forget that those individual meters would have come at great expense financially and their installation would have been much more intrusive and disruptive than the work currently underway.

Q:  Is this considered “essential” work? Why are they continuing with this project while we are under a public health order to stay home?

A:  According to www.metersmatter.org, the City of Sacramento’s webpage:  “Water meter and main line construction has been deemed an essential infrastructure project and therefore construction will continue through the COVID-19 shelter in place order. City staff, contractors, and their workers shall take all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health, Sacramento County Department of Health Services, or any other governmental entity that issues COVID-19 recommendations. This includes, without limitation, those recommendations regarding sanitation of work sites, hand-washing, and social distancing.”

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 2021 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.

Q:  When will they be done with the project?

A:  Samuel Florez, the Project Manager is anticipating that the work will be completed by April 30. Like every other endeavor, this project has been impacted by the pandemic. Supplies have slowed and, as a manager, he has had to implement new protocols to keep his staff safe. Even so, he still anticipates being finished by April 30.

Lastly, what’s next?

Nepenthe can expect to see continued water shutoffs throughout April. It’s important to note that the shutoffs only occur between 9:00 am to noon. When a notification goes out saying that an area may experience shutoffs, that does not mean that each home WILL have its water shutoff- only that it MAY experience a shutoff. Even then, it is not usually for an entire three-hours, but may be intermittent.

Sometimes, when the crews have the lines open, a small amount of dirt can fall in. When the homeowner turns on the water again it can be alarming to see brown water coming out of the lines! Running the water for a few minutes will clear it up.

To be as helpful as possible, management will send a brief eblast every afternoon to inform homeowners of where work is expected the next day. The notice will include a link to a Nepenthe map to provide the exact area where work is expected to occur. The information provided will be as complete as what the contractor provides to management.

As stated earlier, the work is expected to be completed by April 30th barring any unforeseen difficulties. Please contact management if you have any further questions.

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