The rain may have cooled down the customer complaint line at Colorado Springs Utilities, but from August 2012 through the end of July 2013, about 2,700 customers complained.
That is 8 percent more complaints than last year, according to a report the Colorado Springs Utilities Board will hear Sept. 18 at its monthly meeting. Most of the angry calls were about the high water bills set this summer to encourage less water use during the drought. The utilities board has since adjusted the water rates schedule.
Even though it does not seem possible now, following a week of torrential rain, drought and water were two hot topic this summer.
“Complaints about high bills coincided with the drought during the hotter summer months,” the report says.
Most of July, the phone at the utilities office was ringing off the hook.About 22 percent of Colorado Springs residents opened their June water bills to find they had crested the threshold that triggered higher water rates.
The average number of complaints per month in 2013 was 224, up from 205 per month for 2012. Eight
complaints this year resulted in a request to use the “dispute resolution process.” Five complaints were resolved. One moved to an informal hearing with the Better Business Bureau and then to a formal hearing with a ruling in favor of Colorado Springs Utilities, the report says. Two complaints remain under review.
It was not the first time Colorado Springs had enacted summer lawn watering restrictions. But it was the first time higher rates kicked in once customers used more than 2,000 cubic feet of water per month. Residents that used less than 1,999 cubic feet of water, or 14,953 gallons, paid $.0584 per cubic foot and would see a bill, roughly, of about $103. Those who used 2,500 cubic feet of water per month, or 18,700 gallons, paid a rate of $.0885 per cubic foot plus a water surcharge of $.0885 per cubic foot and would have seen a bill of about $192.
Some residents told the utilities board their water bills were in the $800 and $900 range.
In August, the board adjusted the higher water rates to kick in at 2,500 cubic feet, which along with the two-day a week watering restrictions, are in affect until December.
This past month’s rain is not likely to wash away next summer’s the watering restrictions. Utilities water managers will report to the board that forecasters are predicting the drought will persist in the mountains at least through the end of October, with some improvement expected locally.
“We are currently in Stage 2 water shortage and are continuing to closely monitor use and storage to assess the water supply situation,” the water report says.