News Feature | May 21, 2014

Changing Billing System Could Save Water Provider $250K

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

billsreg

A small city in Ohio could save as much as $250,000 by upgrading the way it bills customers for water use.

A recent state auditor report found that "cutting down on unnecessary water loss and changing the way it bills its residents" would lead to major savings for Bellefontaine, OH, the Springfield News-Sun reported

Bellefontaine operates a particularly inefficient billing system, charging tenants rather than landowners. The state report said the city should reverse this practice.

"Last month, Bellefontaine had 808 delinquent utilities accounts, totaling $46,000. It had 276 accounts that were delinquent more than 60 days, the threshold where the city will turn water off," the news report said. "The city has 13,000 residents and 5,400 utility bills," the news report said, citing Bellefontaine Mayor Adam Brannon.

In explaining the audit, Brannon emphasized the stability inherent in billing landowners rather than tenants. 

“The property owner is going to stay with the property. They are not going to be moving around so much and are not as hard to keep a handle on. Therefore the property owner is a more responsible party we can keep track of the utility bills on," he said to the News-Sun

Some water use in Bellefontaine is not being billed at all. The audit determined that "the city pumped 675 million gallons of water last year and only billed for 478 million gallons," the news report said. That is a water loss rate of almost 30 percent. Part of the problem is some properties lack a water meter. 

That's despite a recent revamp to the city's water meters. "Bellefontaine began implementation of our new Automated Water Meter Reading System in May 2011. These new meters will include technology to read your water consumption more efficiently and improve the amount of data the City will receive," the city said in a press release. 

Billing headaches are common at utilities. In Yuma, AZ, a "transition from bi-monthly to monthly billing for water, sewer and trash service, some growing pains are occurring," the Yuma Sun reported this month. Customers have reported "unusual" amounts on their bills. 

Check out Water Online's AMR, AMI And Metering Solution Center.  

Image credit: "Calculator and Dollar Bill," Images_of_Money © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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