Why is the water meter bill so high?

By Amanda Dove

As Discovery Bay residents received the bill for their water meter this week, residents took to social media to compare bills and share concerns.

While the water meter installations and corresponding bills have been well publicized via public meetings, mailings and public discussion for well over a year, many people found the bill, or elements of it, a surprise.

Why do we have a bill? The state mandated that every home have a water meter by 2025. Original Discovery Bay homes had evenly distributed water costs included in their annual parcel tax. With the implementation of the water meters, that property tax line item no longer exists.

The original plan estimated a water meter installation budget of approximately $3.11 million. For 3,528 installs, everyone would pay about $906 per household. however, residents were opposed to sharing the cost equally and a town meeting proved that residents wanted to pay their actual cost per household, as opposed to evenly sharing the cost across all homes – some of which might have higher costs due to obstructed access to the meter.  That choice required a construction manager and inspectors be hired to then gauge every cost per residence and ultimately doubled the length of the project.

Why are some homes receiving bills higher than others? Each home has its own construction cost. Some were simple, some required more equipment or labor.
Tier 1: simple replacement
Tier 2: (most common) dig or take a box out and replace
Tier 3: concrete issue or obstruction to meter box

Some properties had fences or palm trees, fancy mailboxes or the like that each added to that particular owner’s cost. “The town had to create a construction cost for every project” as residents had demanded, stated Town Manager, Mike Davies. The small differences from home-to-home included such differences as perhaps the use of a 1″ or 3/4″ meter, (i.e.: $216 vs $192 line item). The cost differences are as little as a few dollars to as great as a few thousand, depending on the individual costs associated with each property. Town manager, Davies, explains that each of these costs can be broken down if a homeowner asks for the detail, but on the initial bill it was agreed the excessive detail complicated understanding as opposed to helping.

With regard to financing, the Town expects a 3-4% interest rate for those who chose to amortize the cost across ten years – and why not? The rate will vary, depending upon how many people choose the finance option. The more people that do, the lower the cost will be. For example, if 3,000 homeowners choose the financing option there will be an estimated $1 per month in interest financing, and most residents will find this option most affordable, especially those who will sell their homes in that time, as new owners will assume the costs.

In the end, most residents appear not to be upset about the expense, but more so about the limited, 30-day advance notice of the charge and also about the perceived lack of transparency on the initial billing.

One thought on “Homeowners surprised by water meter bill”
  1. Thanks for your Post, but there is a bigger issue here. My 3 properties are a case in point.

    I have 3 properties next to each other and had 3 different bills ranging from $606 to $1500. I called the Town and they sent me a line by breakdown of the bills.

    Looks like the majority and most variable part of the Bill is a line item Call “Construction Type” which lists 3 Construction types with my costs ranging from $90 to $950 on this one line item.

    I suspect they classified each house prior to the actual work being done so my driveway install was automatically classified as a Type 3 Construction (the most difficult and expensive). The reality though it was the easiest as they just opened the box replaced the valves etc and closed the box, no digging, no obstruction, no concrete work, no new box etc. it was a piece of cake install, but for some reason it was classified as a Type 3 Construction with costs 10 times greater than my next door residence which required digging and more install work. Something is wrong here and it feels like someone is ripping me off.

    My issue is the biggest bill was the easiest installation. I have requested a review and sent an email to several of the Town Board members about the issue. I also suggested they proactively communicate how about the issue of dramatically variable invoices as the Community is boiling with questions.

    My question is: Do I have a legitimate mistake on my bills or did the Contractor or someone else intentionally misstate my installation difficulty jacking up my costs? How does this get resolved? The VERY short timeline of May 15th to pay is also problematic especially for disputed installations.

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